Posted by: Genny Colby | March 14, 2012

Freedom of Speech

One of our most cherished rights in the United States (besides the right for television producers to bombard us day after day with hours of “reality” TV, or programs that document lives of “celebrities”) is Freedom of Speech.  We have the right to speak our mind, share our thoughts and opinions, and even talk negatively about elected officials.  Over the years the Supreme Court has had to walk that fine line to determine what is protected under the First Amendment, Freedom of Speech.

Now that we are in the 21st Century, there as so many means to express ourselves.  We no longer are limited to books, newspaper/magazine articles or editorials, or even just word of mouth.  We have such a vast array of outlets including the internet, blogs, social networking sites, etc.  And you can reach thousands, if not millions of people, all over the world.  It is no longer limited to your network of friends, your community, or even your country.  It is out there for all to see….forever!

This can be a wonderful thing, as it can open up discussions and dialog between people with many varying ideas.  It can lead others to explore new ideas, new concepts, new viewpoints.  It can be a wonderful way to create debate among people about ideas that they are passionate.  But it also leads to all of us having more responsibility.  Debates, discussions, dialog are all wonderful things, but we must be respectful of one another, be open to new ideas and viewpoints, and treat others with kindness, even if we don’t agree with their ideas.  We don’t have to agree, that is the whole point of free speech.  But it does not mean we can or should attack one another or put one another down for having different opinions.

I am sure that there will be (if there have not been already) times when someone who visits my blog and reads my ideas will not agree with me.  That is okay.  I would even hope that she may leave a comment, expressing her ideas.  What a wonderful way to learn, see things from a new perspective.  I also hope that such a reader would do so with respect to my ideas and respect of her own ideas, by responding calmly and with a clear statement.  When we attack one another personally calling each other “stupid” or “dumb” or “ignorant” we are not just disrespecting our opponent, we are disrespecting ourselves.  If I am entitled to my opinion, and to share it with those who want to read it, then so is the next person.  I have to be prepared that there will be others who disagree with my ideas.  As I want them to take the time to read/listen to my ideas with an open mind, I have to be willing to do the same for them.

This is even more so for those in the public view, such as those in the entertainment industry, broadcasting, politics, or anything else that puts them in the face of all through multiple media platforms.  These people have a much louder voice than I do with my little blog.  People look to them for opinions, ideas, suggestions on how to view the world.  This can be from large topics such as who to vote for in the coming elections, to what side of the argument best suits them on issues like birth control, sexuality, or gender equality.  Or even small topics such as which is better: Diet Coke or Diet Pepsi.  (Me?  I like Diet Coke with Lime myself)

What happens to that young man, struggling with is own sexuality, when he hears someone he admires or looks up to, talking about how being gay is a determinant to society?  What happens to the young woman, navigating her way through young adulthood, when she hears how those in power won’t listen to her ideas about her own health?  What happens to the young same-sex couple who are navigating on how to live as a couple and not individuals to hear that their commitment to one another is not as valid as a male/female couple?  How will these young people react?  How will this influence their choices in the future?  And what effect does this have on not only their self-esteem, but their self-image?

We all have the right to voice our opinions. We all have the right to have our own opinions.  But how we voice them, what platform we use, and how we express ourselves is so important in this growing age of technology.  You don’t know who you will reach, you don’t know how your words will affect listeners, but if we try to remember that at our core we are all humans, with hopes, dreams, and ideas, we can at least treat each other with respect and open the lines of communication.  We all have to remember that words can be the most powerful weapon and use them with great care and compassion.

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