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I was watching the news this afternoon and a congressman who will remain nameless was railing against another potential congressman's statement that even though he is against racism in every way, the right to freedom of speech in this country trumps any personal belief structure.
When did we become so misguided? To think that your personal beliefs and mine may differ, but instead of respecting each other's beliefs, or forget respecting the actual belief, just respecting the right to have those differing beliefs, have the majority pass laws to limit what we can and cannot say is abhorrent.
Our nation was founded on the constitutional right to free speech, free thought, freedom of the press, etc. Let's think of it like this; Do you believe in racism? Hopefully not. However, some misguided people in this world still do. Those that are American citizens have a right to think and speak as they personally believe. I think it was said best by Michael Douglas in "The American President". He said "America isn't easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, 'cause it's gonna put up a fight. It's gonna say "You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who's standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours." You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country can't just be a flag; the symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then, you can stand up and sing about the "land of the free"."
We all need to respect the fact that everyone in this country (and hopefully someday the entire world) has the right to believe and say whatever they choose, as long as what they say doesn't cause physical harm to others. Now you're going to argue that a speech against a certain race, religion, etc. causes people to get riled up and therefore could potentially cause harm to others. I would have to agree with that, however it's not the same as yelling "FIRE" in a crowded theater. There's a direct and predictable result from that action. The fact that someone might go out and cause harm to others after hearing a racist speech is not predictable. It is the choice of that one person to take action.
Now I want to be very clear here. I am in no way advocating racism, religious prejudice, or any other ideology that supports hatred towards others. In fact, it disgusts me that these thoughts still exist in today's society. I am simply stating that we as a nation, if we wish to have our rights protected, cannot go down the path of limiting the rights of others because those people are in direct contrast with our belief structure.
Perhaps we should be concentrating on educating and informing these people so that when our youth is approached by these misguided citizens they will question why anyone would think like that? Perhaps the media shouldn't constantly show foreign nationals poor behavior in such a broad spectrum as so to place prejudices and fears in the minds of each of us? We can change these things. We as the people of this great country really do have the power to stand up and say "listen. let's realize that we all need to respect each other. from race, to religion, to sexual orientation, and beyond, it's all about respecting one another and treating everyone like human beings."
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