Freedom of Speech and Charlottesville

“I Disapprove of What You Say, But I Will Defend to the Death Your Right to Say It.” This quote is attributed to Evelyn Beatrice Hall, a British historian.

This quote takes us back to a time when freedom of expression was taken seriously.

Alas, we live in an age when people are easily offended and this freedom of speech is being set aside to protect those overly-sensitive souls who cannot bear hearing something they disagree with.

What took place in Charlottesville was a small group of people exercising that freedom of expression. I, as a grand majority of Americans, disagreed with them. But they do have the right to express themselves. That freedom of expression is in the Bill of Rights which was added to the Constitution to protect our freedom. You remember the Constitution? It is the like the instructions with IKEA furniture, not always easy to understand (look at our presidential election) but useful. The Constitution explains how our country is supposed to function. Freedom of expression is one of the guaranteed rights that we all have.

Are we ready to throw out that right of free speech? If we do, what do we throw out next? Freedom of the press or freedom of religion? I know a lot of people want to throw out the right to bear arms, but again when you throw out one right where do you stop?

This subject needs to be addressed. We are on a slippery slope here. It is not just Charlottesville. It is university campuses across our nation that are refusing to allow freedom of expression.

So, how should we react when someone expresses something we do not agree with? Well, we could get angry and fight with them. Oh, that means we are denying them that freedom of speech. Some would say freedom of speech is fine but not for everyone. We have to make an exception for racists or for Al Gore or for __________________ (fill in the blank, everyone has someone they think deserves to be muzzled). But remember that pesky Constitution and it’s Bill of Rights…

If we are not going to get angry and fight, then how should we react when someone expresses something we do not agree with? Well, we could follow the example of Martin Luther King and Gandhi, non-violent protest. And they both applied this means of reaction when confronted with violent people who wanted to take away their freedom of expression!

Imagine a movement of people who disagree with racists which organizes a counter-demonstration by lining the streets, silently and non-violently, turning their backs to the racists to show their disagreement.

If that had been done, the press would have reported; “A group of racists marched today in Charlottesville. Non-violent protesters lined the street in silence. Afterwards everyone went home.” No big deal. And a much better outcome.

I think that would have been the intelligent way to show disagreement while respecting their constitutional right of expression.

Or even better, just ignore them. Let them have their little rally and say, “You guys are so lame we’re not even going to waste our time on you.’ Again, no big deal.

And that is exactly what this event in Charlottesville should have been, no big deal.

Trumbo

Trumbo

The Mrs. and I saw the movie “Trumbo” last night and it is very good. It’s about the “Hollywood Ten” a group of blacklisted scriptwriters, and in particular Dalton Trumbo the unofficial leader of the group, during the Communist scare of the 1950s. We see the support they received (very little), the betrayals they suffered (very painful) and, finally, the victory they won (very satisfying).

This movie is a reflection on what happens when we let fear rule us and decide to go against the basic rights set down in our constitution. These men were blacklisted because they belonged to the Communist Party.

As the movie begins we read that the Communist Party developed during the depression years and that as the Soviet Union became our ally against Hitler, membership increased rapidly. The US government did not allow criticism of “Uncle Joe” Stalin during World War II. There was nothing wrong with being a member of the Communist Party at that time.

But with the cold war Communism became something scary and being a communist was unacceptable; unacceptable to the point that the 1st amendment right of free speech was side-lined concerning communists.

These ten scriptwriters were never accused of spying or being involved in actions against the government of the Unites States. They simply belonged to a political party that had existed since 1919 and one day certain people decided their 1st amendment rights no longer counted.

This story is something we are reliving today. People against guns want to do away with the 2nd amendment. But once you undercut one amendment what’s to stop you from undercutting others.

People with certain sexual orientations are using the scare tactic of ‘intolerance’ to browbeat those who disagree with them, trampling on their 1st amendment rights of freedom of religion and freedom of speech. They make full use of their 1st amendment right of freedom of speech but want to deny the same right to others, just as the right of freedom of speech was denied to the Hollywood Ten in Trumbo.

This movie is a reminder of the damage done when the rights ensured by our Bill of Rights are ignored. What was done to the Japanese-Americans during World War II was disgusting. German-Americans were not rounded up and put in detention camps. But because Japanese-Americans were “different”, their 1st amendment rights didn’t matter.

Can we learn from the past or are we doomed to endlessly repeat it?

Thank you, Charlie Hebdo…

NotInMyName

(Descendez pour la traduction en Français.) From the afternoon of January 7th Muslims around the world were condemning the actions of the terrorists and offering their support to the French people. There was also a unity among all the French people, regardless of religion or lack of religion, which is quite rare. The slogan “I am Charlie” was seen around the world as a unanimous wave of support was expressed for France, even in Muslim countries. Very quickly in France many Muslims felt uncomfortable with this slogan. For them Charlie Hebdo is a provocative, offensive, irreligious, disrespectful, blasphemous newspaper. They could not in good conscience say, “I am Charlie”. But most French Muslims were so sickened and disgusted by the actions of those terrorists that they simply kept quiet not to disturb the mass movement in which the French people felt a deep need to come together to comfort and support each other and to show that France is united and not afraid. The international support for France continued for one week, even from Muslim countries. And then…the new edition of Charlie Hebdo came out with a caricature of the Prophet on the front page. In the following 24 hours anti-Charlie Hebdo and anti-French protests started throughout the Muslim world. And they continue until now. Thank you, Charlie Hebdo for turning the Muslim world against France. Thank you, Charlie Hebdo for being so hard-headed, stubborn and provocative that rather than making an effort to encourage the Muslim world to remain supportive of the French people, after the drama thrust upon them, you decided to stick out your tongue and say, “Didn’t even hurt,” like an eight year old in a school yard. Thank you, Charlie Hebdo for confirming the negative image that many people in the Muslim world have of western civilization, a corrupt, arrogant society that feels superior to the rest of the world and feels free to insult and ridicule the religious beliefs of others. Before people start jumping on me I do believe in freedom of speech and freedom of the press. But is it necessary to carry those freedoms to an extreme? Is it necessary to be insulting, provocative and demeaning of other’s beliefs just because I have the right to? The attitude of Charlie Hebdo will reinforce the separation between the western world and the Muslim world. Is that what we really need right now? Many people like to say that religion is part of the problem but the attitude of Charlie Hebdo is just as much, if not more, a part of the problem. An immature, self-centered attitude in which, “Anyone with whom I disagree can be mocked, ridiculed, spat upon and insulted and if they don’t like it, TOO BAD! I have freedom of speech and freedom of the press to hide behind. I can be as much of an arrogant, insulting jerk as I want because it’s my right.” And they are right. It is their right to be arrogant, insulting jerks. But I don’t have to agree with them. So to any Muslims who might be reading this I would like to say that Charlie Hebdo does not represent the point of view of the majority of the French people. As the two images below show, Charlie Hebdo is equally insulting to all religions, not just Islam. And I would like to declare that what Charlie Hebdo does and says is: Not In My Name.

CHanti-chretien CHantisemite

Merci, Charlie Hebdo…

Dés l’après-midi du 7 janvier des Musulmans du monde entier ont condamné les actions des terroristes et ont offert leur soutien au peuple français. Il y avait aussi une unité parmi les Français, religieux ou non-religieux, qu’on voit rarement.

On a pu voir le slogan “Je Suis Charlie” autour du monde, tel une vague unanime de soutien international à l’intention du peuple français, même dans les pays musulmans.

Rapidement en France beaucoup de Musulmans se sont sentis mal à l’aise avec ce slogan. Pour eux Charlie Hebdo est un journal provocateur, choquant, irréligieux, sans respect et blasphémateur. Ils ne pouvaient pas dire, en bonne conscience, “Je Suis Charlie.”

Mais la plupart des Musulmans français étaient si mal à l’aise et dégoutés par les actions des terroristes qu’ils n’ont rien dit pour ne pas gêner le mouvement de masse dans lequel les Français ressentaient le besoin de se rassembler pour se réconforter et se soutenir et pour montrer que la France est unie et qu’elle n’a pas peur.

Le soutien international pour la France a continué pendant une semaine, même depuis les pays musulmans. Et puis le nouveau Charlie Hebdo est sorti avec une caricature du Prophète sur la une. Dans les 24 heures qui ont suivi, des manifestations anti-Charlie Hebdo et anti-français ont commencé. Et elles continuent depuis.

 Merci, Charlie Hebdo, pour avoir tourné le monde musulman contre la France.

Merci, Charlie Hebdo, d’être si rigide, si têtu et si provocateur qu’au lieu de faire un effort et d’encourager les Musulmans du monde à continuer de soutenir les Français après cette tragédie imposée, vous avez décidé de tirer la langue et de dire “Même pas mal” comme un enfant de huit ans dans une cour d’école.

Merci, Charlie Hebdo, de confirmer l’image négative que tellement de Musulmans ont de la civilisation occidentale, une société corrompue et arrogante qui se sent supérieure au reste du monde et se sent libre d’insulter et ridiculiser les croyances religieuses des autres.

Avant qu’on me lance des attaques écrites, laissez-moi dire que je respecte la liberté d’expression et la liberté de la presse. Mais est-il nécessaire de porter ces libertés à l’extrême? Est-il nécessaire d’être insultant, provoquant et dégradant des croyances des autres simplement parce que j’en ai le droit?

L’attitude de Charlie Hebdo va renforcer la séparation entre le monde occidental et le monde musulman. Avons-nous besoin de cela en ce moment?

Beaucoup de personnes aiment dire que la religion est une partie du problème, mais l’attitude de Charlie Hebdo est autant, si pas plus, une partie du problème. Une attitude immature et égoïste qui dit, “Ceux avec qui je ne suis pas d’accord peuvent être ridiculisés, humiliés et insultés et s’ils ne sont pas d’accord, TANT PIS! Je peux me cacher derrière la liberté d’expression et la liberté de la presse. Je peux être un abruti arrogant et méchant par excellence car j’en ai le droit!”

Et ils ont raison. Ils ont le droit d’être des abrutis arrogants et méchants. Mais je n’ai pas besoin d’être d’accord avec eux.

Donc, s’il y a des Musulmans qui lisent ceci, j’aimerais dire que Charlie Hebdo ne représente pas le point de vue de la majorité des Français. Comme montre les deux images ci-dessus, Charlie Hebdo est également insultant envers toutes les religions.

Et j’aimerais déclarer que ce que Charlie Hebdo dit et fait: N’est Pas En Mon Nom.