Monday, January 10, 2011

Civil Speech

The horrific tragedy in Arizona is being exploited by politicians who want to restrict "violent" rhetoric - and in the process irrevocably change the intent of the First Amendment.

Throughout our history, we have confronted directly subversive and violent threats to people and our nation. The Courts have consistently ruled that there are limits to free speech - but very few and only in serious situations.

The problem is simple: who decides what is threatening? What words or symbols are off limits? As I survey the web, there is as much hatred on the Left as the Right, in fact, direct threats of murder and images of mayhem are much more prolific from the Left than anything from well-known conservatives.

If you restrict communication you have to go all the way. ALL religious symbols are out - after all, they might make someone uncomfortable. No more Che Guevara posters - he was a hero to some and murderer and thug to others. No rainbows - they might be offensive to conservatives. While we are at it, let's lower all US flags, since it is a symbol of colonialism. Oh yes, Mexican flags are prohibited too, for they incite hatred from some corners.

Let's not stop with symbols. Any strong personal attacks are off-limits. Since "ideology" is now a swear word, all philosophical speech should be banned. For good measure, we must not allow any critiques of ideas, except for the "decency panel's" enemies.

We must at all times condemn wanton violence and hate-filled speech, but we must not allow ANY elite to restrict our ability to debate fundamental ideas and issues, lest we devolve into an impersonal Orwellian state. Oh wait! That might be the agenda of the Left - keep any dissent quiet if it questions your agitation! Isn't it amazing that the Left makes heroes of people who assault police officers, call America a "land-grab" and lionize radicals who subvert our cherished norms? Of course the Right overgeneralizes as well, using the globalist/Marxist label indiscriminately.

What is the way forward? Principled action on common concerns, vigorous debate on all ideas and issues and universal commitment to peaceable debate. Sarah Palin is no threat to anyone. Neither is Keith Olbermann. Glenn Beck will soon be a memory and the Huffington Post will fade into obscurity someday. Others will emerge to continue our great tradition of open debate.

Civility is not blandness. We must debate our deepest differences freely without fear. My stance for Proposition 8 in California (supporting traditional marriage) is shared by billions of people of all religions. My convictions are not hate-filled or intolerant. I live next door to folks who disagree passionately; however, we are good neighbors and enjoy the fruits of our work. I am not inciting violence by having a conviction. Conversely, colleagues and friends who support Obamacare are not all Marxist subversives who hate America. I think they are misguided (they share the same opinion of me!), but we can debate over pizza and keep helping the poor.

I have the honor of meeting people from across the nation and around the world every week. The genius of our First Amendment is still alive - real freedom. We must desire for our opponents the same rights we claim for ourselves.

1 comment:

steve maglio said...

excellent, well written and balanced....should be read to Congress and all leaders of our nation.