Freedom of Speech – Is that a thing anymore?
As a child, I would listen to stories of our history here in the United States from my relatives and others who spoke of it with such conviction. I also was married to a non-citizen for many years from a country that did not have anywhere near the freedoms we had here. The thrill of knowing that the government wouldn’t step in to enforce what job you were to have, what official you should vote for, and what personal decisions you made about your family, health, and well-being was touted as the joy of living in this country. Let me tell you, I have taken full advantage of my right to freedom of speech, especially over the years.
From family members and friends that bleed red, white, and blue after years in military service to voting for the candidates that spoke to my topics, I loved that freedom. I married into a staunchly conservative family, and I am not conservative by any means, as I lean heavily to the other side on many topics that caused robust conversations in my home. That said, we had great conversations and sometimes needed separate corners to think through the objections of the other. The fact was we listened, we debated, and we voted and spoke our individual consciences. We didn’t vote the same, and that was a privilege afforded us by the blood, sweat, and tears of those that fought to keep our country free – sometimes, those military members were the same people I openly debated with.
Well, somewhere in the last few years, that has all changed. This thing called the cancel culture, and whitewashing of all our freedoms have started to occur at a rate that scares me personally. Politics have become violent if you are for the wrong party; no one wants to have healthy debates, and should you come out on a perceived wrong side, your entire existence can be canceled in the most ruthless way possible. There are boxes of right and wrong that groups of individuals, apparently much smarter than all our founding founders, are building, trying to force everyone into what we should and should not believe. With a single allegation, people can lose million-dollar deals, marriages, and sometimes their reputation – without any due process, debate or deliberation.
When did this become a thing? Why are we taking rights away from others in a country where diversity is why we came into existence? Why healthy debates are a thing of the past where insults, commentary, and social media memes can take a well-meaning statement and turn it into a joke. People that have good intentions toward change can be shamed into silence by online bullies. We have become a laughingstock to the world, and worse yet, patriotism appears to be a dying notion no longer instilled in generations moving forward. Freedom of speech is only extended to those on the “right” side of topics these days, or fear and retribution will follow.
Of everything that has happened in the last few years, from a pandemic, to invasions of Ukraine – the loss of our freedom of speech is the scariest for me. We have to allow diversity, bring back tolerance and acceptance, and find a different path forward. The future of our great country is definitely on a challenging course right now. The Declaration of Independence stated that happiness was an inalienable right, and the First Amendment listed Freedom of Speech as a given right. We need to go back to school on these critical mandates and stop the cancel culture paralyzing this country. Let’s find a path back to a time when freedom of speech can once again foster change, community, and a sense of pride in this country that once was great for all the right reasons.
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