Speech rights endangered
March 17, 2008 —
I am an American. It is my responsibility and duty as an American to provide dissenting opinions and arguments about every aspect of our society. As a citizen of a democracy, my goal should be to stand up for what I believe to be true and moral - and these statements should be considered by the rest of America to be a reasonable and necessary exercise of my rights. They aren't.
As I mature and begin to pay attention to the issues that face our country and its citizens, I have begun to realize how often freedom of speech is not only frowned upon, but also attacked and stifled.
This problem is evident in all aspects of our society ranging from what is taught in schools to what we can perform in theatre. It affects every American citizen. The fact is, this "freedom of speech" theory that is so often tossed around is generally only applicable to the majority of the population (politically speaking), and even then only if the country is not facing a national crisis.
I began to become aware of this problem in the aftermath of Sept. 11. Being rather outspoken on my opposition to the war in Iraq, I was frequently ostracized for being "un-American" and for not supporting our troops.
Eventually, to my shame, I began to stifle my opinions, not because I realized that I was wrong or that I was afraid of being attacked for my point of view, but because it was just easier to avoid the bitter and endless debates that inevitably sprouted from these differences.
This fear and tension affected (and still does to some degree) every segment of our society, including our government. Many morally grey bills repressing the personal freedoms of Americans were pushed through Congress during this time with barely any opposition - because this opposition was viewed as "unpatriotic."
Now, interestingly enough, I find that the opposite is happening with our country. As the war and our current administration become more and more unpopular, supporters of these segments have become the harassed group.
Initially I was elated by this change, but I have come to realize that it isn't a solution to the problem, but merely that I am now on the majority (or at least most outspoken) side.
The first amendment is something that Americans tend to forget when it is not convenient. Although the freedom of religion, speech, and press are guaranteed by the Constitution, they are continually restricted by not just the government, but also by the repression of other American citizens.
The sad fact is that many Americans are now too wrapped up in our own lives and concerns to even have the capacity to accept criticism. We are so pent up with our own morals and opinions that we generally refuse to appreciate any others. So please, next time someone disagrees with you, you don't have to change your mind - but do try to look at the issue from their perspective.