Freedom of Speech; we all want to use it all the time. We all want to express ourselves and be heard. But what does freedom of speech really mean? Is it just a right to publicly express oneself? Or is there something more important than getting to publicly hear one's own voice? Why is this freedom to speak so sacred to us?
A: “Sarah Palin is an idiot and a hater and a bigot.”
B: “That is a horrible slanderous thing to say. You should not say such things.”
A: “I have the right to freedom of speech and can say anything I wish to.”Insert any conversation you wish where the end is one person replying, “It’s America and I have the right to say what I want.”
Technically person A is correct in that in America, we have the right of freedom of speech. But notice the defensiveness. Person A feels if someone is arguing with them or tells them they shouldn’t say the things they are saying, then their free speech is being impeded.
Person A has a wrong premise of freedom of speech. He or she is assuming that the freedom to publicly express oneself is given so that the world can know their opinion--as if their opinion has some democratic or equal rights. And if someone then argues with their opinion, it is somehow suppressing their opinion's sacred rights.
Person B has the exact same right of speech to disagree. There is nothing in Person’s B’s statement that was attempting to take away Person A’s right to free speech. They were merely saying that person A shouldn't express a flippant or wrong opinion that could distort or falsify the facts. Person B was using his rights also to attempt to get to the truth of something.
Americans have a right to publicly disagree and tell others their opinion is stupid. Opinions aren’t sacred. Personal views have no sacred rights.
Let me explain by going back. America’s founding fathers understood that governments could suppress truth. They had the power to control and disseminate wrong information to control the populace. This totalitarian power over information brought terrible injustice. Imagine a courtroom not allowing a witness to speak or the accused not allowed to defend themselves. For justice to occur everyone with pertinent information needed to be able to share it. Hence, the sacred right of free speech.
The point of free speech being sacred is that the truth can be known--so that the truth couldn’t be deliberately suppressed by powerful forces. Free speech isn’t so that everyone has an equal opportunity to be creative and express themselves. They can be heard, but they can be argued with in order for the truth to get out!
Freedom of speech is sacred because truth is sacred.
Some in the United States tend to become defensive because they assume their opinion, or expressing their opinions, is sacred. That is what is behind the conversation above. That defensive reply, “I have the right to speak” shows an ignorance of what their right means. It shows a lack of understanding of the point of free speech. We protect your words so that we can get to the truth, not because we think your words have some innate value or are sacrosanct. They are valuable if they further us along in getting to truth.
If you wish to exercise your freedom of speech, please do so, but keep in mind that your self-expression has no rights and is valueless and needs to be disagreed with if it doesn’t shed more light on something or lead to truth. In America truth is sacred, not opinions.