Yesterday’s day of remembrance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. makes us think of freedom. His fight for freedom was for very serious injustices in our country. Things we all take for granted that weren’t bestowed on a large portion of human beings…of other Americans. While we’ve come a long way, there’s still a ways to go. While I could go on and on about this particular subject, I wanted to talk about another freedom today…freedom of speech.
America, while flawed and going through some troubling times, is the greatest place to live. There are so many things that we take for granted. Freedom of speech isn’t one of them. We take full advantage of that liberty, thanks to those that fought, and continue to fight, for the life we get to live. There are places where serious punishment is served to citizens that speak freely. Having the freedom to share our opinions ant any topic is a gift that I’m incredibly grateful for.
Those of you that know me, can attest to me being a bit…shall we say…vocal? Growing up, I was never shy about speaking my mind. As a teenager, I recall the mother of a guy I was dating telling him that I was too opinionated, seeing it as a flaw. Through the years, I’ve stood up for people, including myself, despite whatever backlash I was going to receive. I wear my heart on my sleeve. It’s in my genetics. It’s my right….to say what I want, when I want. But the same way I was encouraged to speak my mind, I was also encouraged to be thoughtful and respectful of others feelings while doing so.
In recent years, many people feel our words have been under fire, feeling like you can’t say anything without offending someone. And there are times I think we’ve become entirely too sensitive. Things we’ve said our whole lives are suddenly offensive. But is it possible that, all this time, there were people that just weren’t saying how these words made them feel? There are certain words in the English language, and probably other languages to, that strike a chord…hurt our feelings. Perhaps it’s something that stems from our childhood or something that relates to our “being” that ignites the fire within us…makes us see red. No matter the word, the origination, the intent, certain words equal hate in the eyes of many people. So while it may seem that we’ve become hypersensitive to what we may see as just “words”, what harm is there in being mindful of what we say, how we say it, and to whom we say it to? I’m not suggesting censorship in any way, except that maybe censoring ourselves every once in a while.
There’s a saying: “With great power, comes great responsibility”. I’d say freedom of speech, any freedom, qualifies as power. Being conscious of our words, opinions, and language is our responsibility. As open and honest as I am, I try to be careful in the words I choose (I’m not always successful there and am a work in progress). My intent is to communicate in a way to make the message I’m delivering a bit more palpable. There are times when it’s difficult to not say, word for blasphemous word, what’s really on my mind. And while I’m a firm believer in honesty, candor and freedom of speech, I’m also a believer in not abusing that right.
Social media, in all of its forms, has removed peoples filters. That may sound like a good thing, but think about it. Think about some of the things you see online, maybe even something you have said behind the safety of your computer monitor or phone. Too often, the words that are written are not words you would ever speak to another human being. I think people haven’t become more sensitive, I think we’ve become less sensitive. There are things that I read that just make me sad. Sad that we’ve become a society that thinks so little of our brothers and sisters, and even ourselves, that allow us to speak (or write) the way we do.
Every day that I turn on the television, I see and hear the latest Donald Trump comments and rants. Now I know I’m going to strike a chord here with some of you, and this is not a political rant. Many people are behind Mr. Trump because he speaks his mind and often says things that we have thought at one time or another. On one hand, it’s a breath of fresh air to have a candidate that isn’t your textbook “politician”. And while I welcome someone honest and estranged from the same old politics, I don’t believe making hateful statements is the quality of a good leader. I don’t begrudge anyone their opinions or stance on Mr. Trump. But ask yourself, what hope do we have to be a peaceful nation, and world, if our leaders spew out the first thing that pops into their heads, or worse, say hateful things after having time to think about their words. There needs to be a happy medium. Just because we want something new doesn’t mean we should settle on our morals and humanity.
We haven’t lost our right to speak freely, despite popular belief. We’re just being asked to remember that while we have the right to speak our mind, freely, it’s equally important to maintain compassion and humanity. And if being mindful of those around you makes for a happier world, is it really so bad?