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. 

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