Friday, February 27, 2009

Freedom of Speech or Freedom of Comfort?

I will never understand why those who claim the title of "liberal" and the label of "tolerance" can act so hypocritical in the name of "feelings".

Don't get me wrong, I myself lean left on many issues, so this is not a condemnation of all who lean left of center. However, recent events on campus and a debate on campus and government policies regarding free speech and hate speech have made me think. 

Let me say that racism, sexism, ageism, etc are all evils. I believe all of it was wrong. As for having epithets hurled at you, I've had people associate me with Nazism just for the fact that I'm Catholic. That hurts. Bigotry sucks. As for whether an institution can regulate speech codes, I do believe that codes of civility should be enforced by private institutions.  I am not referring to any of that.

What I am referring to is whether a campus could restrict people from meeting to discuss ideas that may not be so politically correct. I'm referring to whether groups should be allowed to hold rallies or pass out flyers containing such beliefs (such as a white supremacy group on campus, not advocating violence, but merely doing the same things any other group on campus would do). Let's go beyond campus, what about government? Does Sweden have the right to imprison a pastor, because he told his congregation that homosexual actions (not people, but actions) are sinful? Does Austria have the right to imprison someone for ten years, because they denied the Holocaust? Does Turkey have a right to exclude women from universities, because they choose to follow their faith and don a hijab?  

For college groups, the excuse is made, "Well, if we let some people espouse this idea, that means EVERYONE thinks like that!"  Really? So I guess our campus pro-life group, which is very small, targeted for ridicule and outright hated by others is that successful in getting everyone on their side? Or that I, as a pro-life person on a campus where that idea is not popular, am somehow dangerous to the masses because I express an opinion? Laughable. Furthermore, on a college campus, a place where intellect and reason are sacred and dissent is considered their God, isn't it somewhat hypocritical to praise dissent and then adamantly oppose it when it actually comes?

For democratic governments, the excuse is made that these ideas are "illiberal".  Let's see, liberal comes from the Latin liberalis which comes from the Latin liber which means "free man". Are we really free if we cannot voice contrary opinions, however bigoted or merely unpopular they might be? Are we free if we cannot observe practices that harm no one else, just because one group doesn't like it?

We have a right to free speech, not a right to comfort.  People are insensitive, heartless and cruel and everyone gets insulted.  Not to say harassment is right, that should be punished. But no one has a right to not be offended. If they did, no one would be allowed to speak at all.  

A Jewish poet once said that in a place where books were burned, people would be burned. I take that a step further. If ideas are crushed, one day people will be. I'd rather live in a country where people could express what they wanted, provided they don't incite violence, rather than a place where offending someone could cost you your rights.  As for popularity, let me end this by saying that one place where mob mentality took over cost the lives of over twelve million people, including many innocent children.  I dare anyone to tell me that is acceptable. 

Monday, February 9, 2009

Strange and Unlikely Coincidences......

When I was five, I said I would live in Kenya and Mexico, due to the fact that my kindergarten teacher would teach us a few words in Spanish and Swahili, thus fueling me with a lifelong love of languages. Well, here's what happened since then.

1. I ended up meeting a couple wonderful people who have a huge passion for Africa, especially Kenya (since they both studied there) and have shared a lot with me regarding that.

2. I may end up living in Mexico next summer.

3. My second language is Spanish.

4. I have a strong desire to go to Africa and to learn about it. I've had it for awhile and it's almost inexplicable.

5. My favorite things to drink are Kenyan coffee and chai (an Indian drink, but common in Kenya, due to the sizable Indian population).

6. I work in a Mexican restaurant and the people I speak the most Spanish with just happen to be Mexican (there are others of some type of Latin American descent who do speak Spanish, but I'm only starting to get comfortable speaking with them, they speak really fast and I can't keep up! lol).

7. The women's issues that speak strongly to me (besides pro-life) are either FGM (which 50% of Kenyan girls undergo :'() or femicide in Juarez, Mexico (which is only right across the border of the US. Scary).

But this one takes the cake:

8. Father could not say Mass last night, due to retreat, so he had one of his Dominican brothers come say Mass. Only this one happened to not only be from Kenya (and has spoken about the Church in Africa at school) but, when he gave me the keys to get snacks, I noticed that the keychain was designed like the Mexican flag and had Mexico written all over it.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Good people

One thing I've learned in life, from the age of three onward, is that nothing, not distance, not even death, can separate people from each other.

This is a lesson that came with many tears. At the age of three, I lost my grandmother (and yes, there are still memories and tears associated with that, though it was nearly 17 years ago). At the age of eight, I moved away, leaving behind a best friend. At the age of ten, I moved again, leaving behind another best friend. I graduated high school and moved again, leaving my family (which is hard, even if you enjoy your school and can't imagine living anywhere other than the city you're currently in). In the past year, I've seen friends graduate and move, two to Texas, one to Togo. I've seen friends study abroad in far away places and this year, many more of them will graduate. Soon, it will be my turn and I will leave, hopefully for a Third World nation in need of service.

At the same time, all of this made me appreciate people more. I realized that while on earth, nothing is secure. Not time, not money, not people, not even the fact that your heart is still beating. We've seen that with our economy in the past few years, with the precarious situation our country lies in. We see that with college kids, who go in knowing exactly what they want to do, only to have their worlds turned upside down as they realize it isn't what they thought it would be. We see that with friends and family who move away or pass away. But when it comes down to it, all we have is each other, regardless of how long or short that may be.

A dear friend of mine once said to me that God's greatest gift to us, after His Son, was people. I've come to believe that. I also believe that it isn't good for man to be alone. So I thank Him for people. All of them, good or bad. They all have something to teach me. And I will always love them for that.