by Jefferson Pinto
Aug. 2009: Issue 17: One of the core elements that makes this country great is our freedom of speech. In the U.S. we have the freedom to contribute our ideas, which more quickly identifies problems, which in turn may lead to finding solutions.
Moreover, the courts have consistently upheld freedom of speech to include the freedom of expression. How would our government ever regulate what can and can’t be expressed? It’s an all or nothing proposition; unbridled free speech or none at all. Would you want a Government Expression Monitor?
Although some expression is offensive to me, I personally know I must tolerate a few folks burning our flag or marching down the street in white robes with cone shaped hoods, in order to be able to walk freely down the sidewalk. After all, the Bill of Rights didn’t say, you can express yourself only if your message and presentation isn’t offensive to others.
Are you sitting down? I must admit, I didn’t vote for President Obama. He won the election fair and square and I’m OK with that. I am, however, disillusioned with the absurd meritless attacks on his character that continue to this day. (His race, his religion, his childhood, etc.) I get an email daily espousing some conspiracy theory about him.
Our prior president was abused by the same antics. After deploying troops to Iraq, then President Bush was greeted by demonstrators calling him Hitler and holding posters with Swastikas on them.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not here to help protect the presidents’ feelings. I’m not here to say you can’t disagree or have to like whoever got elected. I will invite you to stick to the issue; don’t turn it into a character attack because the issue, which is more important, gets lost. For example, “We had no business attacking Iraq and it will cost us needless billions of dollars and countless lives of our young men and women.” Or something like, “I oppose universal government- run health care because it doesn’t work elsewhere and it won’t work in this country.”
If you continue to attack someone who won the election for whom you didn’t vote, you are setting the “tone” for the next time that your candidate of choice wins. What you are really saying is, “Hey I’m going to attack and bash “your” president that I didn’t vote for AND feel free to bash “my” president when he wins in the future." That’s a destructive lose-lose proposition. It’s not an effective long-run strategy and will sabotage advancement of debates toward good solutions in this country.
Here’s why that form of free speech is destructive: It undermines the office of the president and the entire system. It undermines “good” things the president does (‘Good’ is in the eyes of the beholder.) It diverts attention from finding solutions to real issues. If a personal character attack is the best you can do, maybe your argument has no merit. The destructive aspect; people jump to defend the president, “their buddy”, and the core issue becomes secondary or forgotten altogether.
It’s OK and healthy to express frustration, disapproval, etc. but we are Americans first and Republicans or Democrats later. Sarah Palin rightfully told the media last month in certain terms not to go after her governor successor and his family.
Your Perception of the Messenger Affects How You Interpret the Message Everyone is different. Much of the tension in this country comes from the intolerance in not accepting others as they are because they have a difference of opinion. Why not listen more closely at what people are saying and not your subjective view of ‘them’. If someone you don’t like makes a funny joke, pretend it’s someone you like who said it and laugh.
Getting to the Central Issue
If your point has merit, it ought to stand on its own. Suppose you are sorting a deck of playing cards equally into buckets and you had only four buckets? You divide them into hearts, spades, clubs, and diamonds. Four categories and so all is fine until you come across the Joker. Which bucket does he belong? Oops, it looks like you don’t have enough buckets.
Maybe the Joker looks enough like a face card so why not throw him in the diamonds bucket? The reality is people and their opinions don’t fit into clear categories. In politics, I may be classified as a conservative on one point and a liberal on another. Listen to the argument/expression without classifying the person.
Did you Vote today?
How could you Vote today if elections are in November and May? You economically Vote every day with your dollars.
Choosing not to choose is choosing. By continuing to watch/read the low-grade mainstream/faux alternative media you are implicitly asking for more. If you don’t like the Jerry Springer show, don’t watch it. If you believe the multinational retailer squashes mom and pop stores and exploits inexpensive labor, don’t shop there. If you think credit card companies charge merchants excessive fees, pay with cash. There are less than 90 days of “Voting” before Election Day.
The next time somebody flings a meritless character attack, I invite you to respond with, “So what’s your real issue?” The best way to stop a baseless attack is to ask them to be specific, then ask them to state their view and solution.
Freedom of expression is our birthright; however, as individuals, how we participate and respond greatly forms our whole country and validates or invalidates the message.
- Jefferson Pinto
Jefferson Pinto is a retired CPA, holds an MBA from one of the finer accredited universities in this country, and is the VP of corporate operations for his day job.