It’s easy to stand for freedom of speech, when the message delivered is admirable!

Standing for freedom of speech is easy, when the speech is not controversial

I am a resident of a Northwest Ohio suburb. The center of our metropolitan area is Toledo, Ohio. We had a Nazi demonstration in 2015 that was reported in the National Press. Most in our area did not welcome this demonstration. It brought bad additional and unwanted bad press to our area. It certainly was not a boon for local merchants or our local leaders, who were busy trying to court new industries and citizens for our area. This demonstration was inconvenient to say the least and certainly unwelcome by the majority of our citizenry, yet the march and demonstration occurred and for the most part without disorder. See Toledo Blade Article link

I was proud of our citizens!  We saw evil in our midst, but exercised true tolerance by allowing free speech.  We demonstrated that good can prevail over evil, when both ideals are allowed to be expressed and debated.  When the day was done no one died and the citizenry still agreed that white supremacy is an evil doctrine!

The demonstration cost our area financial resources (police resources and police overtime), which we did not have and  paid for a cause, which we not only did not support, but which most our citizenry condemned. I heard many residents voice outrage at the prospect of dedicating scarce local resources to protect this demonstration,yet it was done and it is important that it was. Why you ask?

I already mentioned that I and our citizenry do not support the ideology of these people. Yet I state categorically it is important that even unpopular and yes, even evil individuals are allowed to speak out. It is the right of free speech and the ability to voice differences in the public square that allow us as a nation to maintain our moral compass!  It is when we do not allow our vocal minorities to speak out that our moral compass is jeopardized!  If we only hear homogenous messages, we never have to ask difficult questions about our moral choices.

It is not the duty of the government or even local citizenry to suppress ideas expressed in the public forum. People are capable and do decide whether a message is laudable, laughable or even evil.  The opportunity to express a point of view that is unpopular allows for a public conversation.  It is through public discourse that public policy is properly formulated.

So was our President wrong to assert their was fault on both sides?  Was there violence from both sides?  See NBC News Link  Is it acceptable to bring weapons (bats) to a protest and cover your face in order to counter a demonstration by people that you believe are evil? Do you have the right to intimidate those, whose views you believe to be evil?    If your answer is yes, consider whether you are promoting a free discussion of issues.  (Who decides what is evil?)

Ask yourself will my answer allow me to speak, when my view is unpopular or in the minority?  (Roman Catholics consider what will happen to your rights to oppose current social mores, if violent intimidation of free speech becomes the new norm.  Remember, you are now seen as evil to many who promote gay marriage and abortion rights! ) Must any public official now rank the level of evil on each side  of an issue and express their ranking after any violent outbreak? (Remember your feelings are just that feelings Ask yourself this.  Are my feelings compelling me to stereotype everyone in a group?  Do I believe in guilt by association?)

Most demonstrations include some activist zealots and some merely interested attendees and all level of individuals between these extremes.  I doubt this demonstration was much different.  When the President said he thought there were good people on both sides, he probably was not wrong!  Yet he is vilified for not lumping all together because evil was clearly present.  (I guess stereotyping is fine as long as it is backed up by a liberal confirmation bias!)

Those who were merely interested bystanders or who believed an objectionable statute should remain maybe misguided by current social mores, but should not receive the same condemnation given to neo nazis nor should they be deprived of their right to speak their mind even if their viewpoint is objectionable to the majority!

Is there no benefit in remembering the mistakes of history in order to not repeat them?  Should their be a new American mantra “Expression which is offensive to any group must be eliminated because offensive speech is by its nature hurtful to someone.”  Anyone, who dares to hold a different view is our enemy!  (Let’s all welcome in the age of the ministry of information.  Perhaps popular media outlets should purge their archives of views proven incorrect over time. ) Death to the historic record!  Let’s all feel good today!

Freedom and exercise of free will can sometimes be messy!  People make bad choices!  Not everyone always agrees with the majority.  Do you not think there were some, who stood against the Nazi crowds in Germany?  Probably not many given the Nazi government’s propensity to eliminate all opposition, but had there been guaranteed free speech and public dialogue, perhaps the holocaust could have been averted or at least limited in scope.  The beauty of our country is that we protect the rights of all to speak their minds.

It is easy to stand for free speech, when the message is an admirable one, but much more difficult, when scarce resources are expended to allow those, whose speech we find objectionable even evil or when the protected speech violates our own basic code or morality.

Yet it is at these times that we must all rally to protect free speech.  It must be safe to express ideas without the threat of physical intimidation.  Our maintenance of our moral compass relies upon open and  free discussion.  Free discussion can not exist in an environment of intimidation.

Far too many have decided that we have free speech but any leader or individual’s speech must be parsed and then the parsed segments weighed.   If the parsed segments as interpreted threatens the strong feelings against an obvious evil, then the individual expressing such improvident views must be ostracized.  Does this scrutiny promote the idea of free expression or is this no more than the politics of division presenting itself in a different form?

Ask yourself: Do I support freedom of speech and free will only as long as it is easy?  Do words mean anything anymore or am I dominated exclusively by my feelings?  Do I suffer under a confirmation bias?

Allowing the exercise of free speech for those,who we regard as evil is the true test of whether a nation is truly tolerant.  May we always pass the test.  God bless America the land of the free!

Author: graffman3030

former Ohio Public service executive. Conservative for life. Life long Ohio resident

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