With the upcoming 2016 presidential election looming overhead, it’s pretty hard to go on the Internet, especially on social media, and not see people talking about it. Everyone, from the extreme left-winger to the extreme right-winger, has an opinion on the matter. When opinions clash, tempers rise and arguments ensue. Sadly, these arguments can sometimes lead to hateful words and even threats.
As a non-confrontational person, the topic of politics makes me uncomfortable. As with any other controversial topic, it’s easy to offend others personally. I do not enjoy attacking other people and I certainly do not enjoy being attacked. While I can bite my tongue most of the time, there are certain issues, such as the one I will discuss later in this post, that I simply cannot keep quiet about.
My birthday is in September, which means I will be eligible to vote for the next president. That’s a lot of responsibility for a young adult. I seek to make the most informed and intelligent decision as I can, which has led me to follow a mix of liberal and conservative blogs on Tumblr. While Tumblr may not be the most “educational” website out there, it does offer a lot of opportunities for debates where I can see people’s perspectives on multiple issues.
I was killing time on Tumblr one afternoon when I saw one of the conservative blogs I follow had posted a picture of an anonymous message he or she had received. Due to foul language and content, I will not quote the message exactly (send me an email if you wish to see the full, uncensored message). In simple, clean terms, the message said: We need to limit freedom of speech to protect minorities. This isn’t the 1950s. No one needs the right to say certain words or use racist symbols. No one is at risk of losing anything but white racists and Nazis.
As a journalist, author, student, teenager and American citizen, nothing has ever scared me more in my life than that message.
I like to think freedom of speech is included in the First Amendment for a reason. It’s the first amendment to the Constitution; the first thing our founding fathers thought to include in the Bill of Rights. It’s obviously important. Without freedom of speech, many things Americans deem as important and crucial to their lives will disappear. If freedom of speech goes away, so does social media, Congress as we know it, any form of creativity, labor and work unions, pop culture and any equal rights movements.
If the scenario were reversed, and we lived in a country where people did not have the freedom of speech and someone sent a message, anonymous or not, saying we should have freedom of speech, the government would use all its resources to hunt that person down and put them in jail.
It’s frightening how people do not know what rights they have until they are taken away.
What’s more, as my journalism advisor often says, once you open the door you cannot close it. The Constitution is a living document, which means the Supreme Court has the power to interpret it any way they see fit. If they take away freedom of speech, what’s stopping them from taking the others? One could argue that religion, assembly, press and petition, the other freedoms protected in the First Amendment, are all sub-categories of freedom of speech. What’s stopping the government from taking those rights away too? What’s stopping the government from taking the natural rights promised to the American people by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence – life, liberty and happiness? Who will stop the government when they have taken everything away?
I understand what the anonymous message was trying to say: people can be offensive. However, political correctness and censorship are not the same thing and should never be treated as such. The anonymous message is wrong. If freedom of speech is taken away, everyone will suffer, especially minority groups. Without freedom of speech, minority groups wouldn’t be able to fight for equality.
Everyone in America, no matter his or her race, gender, sexual orientation or background, is protected by the Constitution, meaning everyone has freedom of speech. Some people will be offensive – that’s life. You can’t change how those people think or what they will say. The best thing you can do is brush it off, hold your head high, and lead your own life.
Want to see the original message? Have an opinion you want to share? Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!