Who can say what will happen next? A friend noted that this old saying is dead: “I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Yep! Today, the only people defending another’s right to opine are those who agree with the opinion. Those who disagree threaten, or actually censor those with whom they disagree.
These days we have many “authorities” telling us what we can/can’t or should/shouldn’t say. The First Amendment begins, “Congress shall make no law….” Our founders did not want our government to censor us, and issued no “special circumstances” under which there are exceptions to the freedoms in this Amendment.
Nevertheless, those who control content of media can and do censor anyone for any reason. Who are they to decide who can speak as well as whom we can and cannot listen to? Books are being banned. Why? Who decides? Who or what gives them the authority to decide? Under the guise of political correctness authorities are literally banning words and creating new words that align with their own sentiments.
Someone might ask, “But, what if those words are dangerous?” Shouting “fire” in a crowded theater or inciting a riot is dangerous. But, so is calling the truth a lie, or debating contentious ideas. Words ARE dangerous! In 2020 people incited riots and other acts of violence from the Spring to the end of the year. And, 2021 hasn’t started off so well either! But, the answer is not to shut up this person or that group.
The answer is to listen to understand first, before replying. We don’t have to agree, but we should strive to understand. Political rhetoric in America has boiled over to the point that all sides are trying to shut up all the other sides. That is an untenable situation. How many of these sides are correct? Are those empowered to censor content correct? Does might make right? Does power corrupt?
Other nations do not allow freedom of speech, even those nations that have “freedom of speech” as one of their founding tenets. Americans used to defend fellow citizens’ right to voice opinions, and fought all those who wanted to shut down free speech. Nowadays “safety” is the clarion call of the masses! We will fight for safety from dangerous speech! But, that safety has never kept anyone safe from oppression or tyranny.
Oppressive centralized governments have always suppressed speech in order to maintain power and control over the masses. Our founders fought a revolution to win our freedoms. Freedom is neither free nor safe. Freedom for everyone comes with its own risks. Life is full of risks. No politician, political party, or government can eliminate risk.
In these days of polarized and politicized rhetoric, we need to learn to listen critically. Needless to say, there are a whole lot of lies and false rumors circulating among us. Listening critically is the first step toward distinguishing between truth and error. Not only that, but critical listening is always much safer than critical opining.
In coming days many will continue to opine about and threaten those with whom they disagree. Listen critically to all sides, follow the money, and beware of those who seek power over others through rational lies.
Daniel L. Gardner is a syndicated columnist who lives in Starkville, MS. You may contact him at PJandMe2@gmail.com.