Exactly when did we “lose” our right to free speech? The people who founded this great country paid for that right with their own blood and the blood of their families and friends.
When did we willingly “give up” our right to free speech? Are we so complacent that nothing is worth fighting for anymore?
We do not have to agree with each other. We do, however, owe other people respect in allowing them to express their opinions. We are a country of over 300 million people. Why is it so appalling to some that there are those who do not agree with them? Listen to others and you may learn something. Listen and you may better understand the position of your opponents. Listen and you may find a more compelling argument for your own position.
It has become commonplace to label those who disagree with us as a threat to society. The terms racist and sexist have been used routinely as weapons against those with whom we disagree. It cheapens the meaning of those terms under which there has been true suffering. If you genuinely believe that a person’s words are a threat, why silence them? People who truly seek to harm others should be allowed to expose themselves for all to see.
We teach our children not to follow the crowd. We teach them about the perils of peer pressure. Yet, so many people are afraid to speak their minds because they may not have a majority-sanctioned opinion. The greatness is in the minority. The sheep are not responsible for the greatest ideas and inventions of all time. It is the one who dares to step away from the flock that changes the world. It is the one who had a thought that no one else dared to think. It is the one who was not afraid to be ridiculed for thinking outside of the box.
It is disheartening that America has become a place where people feel the need to hide their views for fear of violence or retribution. Do not think that America cannot be taken from us. It is not so much a place as it is an idea. It was an idea that inspired our founders to fight a revolution. Pay attention before it slips away.
I have noticed that the smartest people in the room are the ones who are not flustered by the opinions of others. They can make their arguments calmly and intelligently. The free exchange of opinions used to be called “lively debate”. Now it is a call to arms. We should all practice tolerance of opinions. The next time someone you disagree with is under attack, stand up for their right to be heard. Do it to keep in practice. Do it knowing that if they are silenced today, you may be silenced tomorrow.