Expressing My Freedom of Speech
Believe it or not, I keep a lot of my opinions to myself (or just between me and a few good friends). I don’t share my opinions on gay marriage, the Confederate flag, feminism, ISIS, religion, politics or many other things. Why? Because I like to avoid conflict and I like to keep my friends. I can be pretty conservative (again, hard to believe I know). But, today I’m speaking out on all these things in one fell swoop. But maybe not as you would expect. (And this does get pretty wordy so bear with me).
Today is the Fourth of July. If you’re not from the good ‘ole US of A, that might not mean much to you. But your country probably has something similar. A day to celebrate your country, your patriotism, you love for your fellow man. If you’re British and living in America, today might mean something different to you altogether, but we won’t go there right now.
For Americans, you might see this day as a time to watch or light fireworks, have a day off work, cookout, picnic and generally just enjoy life and time with your family. For those who truly look at the day, you see something deeper. A day to recognize our freedoms, those who fought to give us those freedoms and an understanding of how those affect us every day in this great country. I’m one of those last people. I’m looking hard at America right now…and I’m disappointed. I’m still and forever will be proud to be an American – but I think we need to do better.
The Declaration of Independence
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…”
Oh, what a grand statement for our country’s freedom! Let’s break it down a bit for the Old English impaired:
These are honest statements that should be obvious (self-evident)
- All men are created equal (we read this as “man-kind” – men AND women)
- We have certain rights given by The Creator (okay – debate on this one if you want, but basically it says God gives us these rights)
- We have the right to LIFE
- We have the right to LIBERTY (freedom)
- And we have the right to PURSUE HAPPINESS (define this as you will; happiness is different for everyone)
- Men make governments to be sure people get these rights
- Government gets power from the people which it governs (basically, we put people in place to make the laws cuz we trust them).
Now, I don’t know about you, but reading this gives me the chills. Good, goose-bumpy chills. But that’s not even the best part of this document!
I think the heart of the Declaration is summed up in a single line: “But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.” Nicholas Cage explains this pretty damn well (although very simplistically) in National Treasure: “It means if there’s something wrong, those who have the ability to take action have the responsibility to take action.”
Let me say that again: If there is something wrong, those who have the ability to take action have the responsibility to take action! It is therefore incumbent on the citizens to step up, speak our minds, and help those who cannot help themselves when a true injustice is being done. Ay, there’s the rub.
How do we determine if something is being denied in a cruel and oppressive way (“Despotism”)? Who defines that? What are the characteristics of it?
These days, in the USA, it seems that everyone is being offended by something! And as soon as they’re offended they have to make every one conform to their beliefs. We can’t simply say “Hey, I’m not like you. But you be you and I’ll be me. Live and Let Live Brother!”
For example, those in the LGBT community were upset that they couldn’t get married – and rightly so. They deserve to be as miserable happy as heterosexuals and deserve to be afforded the same tax, insurance, life benefits of legal marriage. It was recently decided that EVERYWHERE in the country they can get married…and that offended another group of people. And I honestly don’t understand that. How does this affect you if you’re against it? I’ll touch on this more in a minute. I’m not quite ready here.
There are those who were offended by the Confederate flag – it’s a “symbol of slavery” they claimed. Maybe the Kansas-based Caucasian chick that I am shouldn’t be offended by the removal of this flag from everything and everywhere. However, I AM originally from South Carolina. And I have always looked at that flag as a sign of being a rebel, of standing against that which I don’t agree in, as a symbol of state’s rights and of southern pride. Yes, it is a reminder of a dark time in our country’s past and one that shouldn’t be forgotten. I personally have never seen it as a symbol of racism or white supremacy except when used by hate groups who are using it specifically for that purpose. As a whole, I don’t think that’s what it’s meant to many people. However a group got a bee in their bonnet after someone tried to start race wars in the south, they got very vocal, and this symbol of southern pride is now being removed from our collective history. They even pulled the Dukes of Hazard from TV because the flag is on the roof of the General Lee! And that just makes me sad.
I could go on with other examples but I’m getting upset.
Are there not bigger and more important issues to worry about than those based on someone’s beliefs and opinions? These days it seems that when one group is made happy another group must then become offended. and that’s what we all focus on – opinions and beliefs and wishes. And I believe that opinions are like assholes – everyone has one and they often stink.
We need to focus on issues like poverty, especially where it involves innocent children. Issues like the rising cost of education and the decline of good educators and school systems. (We won’t even bring up the use of Common Core.) How about the increase of attacks on churches and schools? The prevalence of violence between gangs and cops? These are not situations brought about because of a flag or because of someone’s opinion. They are real and they are dangerous – to individuals and to society. These are real issues that could have real solutions if we pulled our collective heads out of our asses and stopped worrying about people’s feelings on the subject and got down to the real issues – how to legitimately HELP people, not just placate the whiners.
Using Our Voices Appropriately
Basically, I think we really need to stop telling each other what we can or can’t do and just live. Just BE. UNLESS there is a situation that is fundamentally removing someone’s unalienable rights:
- The right to LIVE
- The right to BE FREE (Liberty)
- The right to PURSUE HAPPINESS
I believe we’re taking too many things to an extreme and we’re getting offended by the smallest things. This sums up a lot of my feelings on the subject:
And now you get my diatribe on these “hot button” statements. Because once and for all I just want to state my opinion and be done with it. (Wanna skip my opinions? Jump to the bottom summary…)
Wow, what a thing to get upset about if you’re not actually gay (or lesbian or transgender or bisexual or anything non-heterosexual). Will it alter the trajectory of the earth’s rotation if two men kiss under a canopy on the beach and a legal entity says “You’re now married!”? Will entire cities disappear if two women pledge their eternal love to one another and exchange rings? Will the institution of marriage be any worse off than it already is if we allow more people to flounder through it as best they can? I think the real question is: does allowing two people of the same sex to be legally wed keep YOU from being happy in your heterosexual marriage (or in your single heterosexual life)? If so, you need to ask yourself WHY? Because it doesn’t fit with your beliefs? Who fucking cares?! Your beliefs are not my beliefs or his or hers or anyone else’s. It’s your opinion. You know what it comes down to – you don’t believe in it, so don’t get one. Period.
Drinking, Smoking, Doing Drugs
You don’t drink or smoke or do drugs? Good for you! I truly hope you’re healthy and fit and happy with your decisions! But I like to drink with my friends and sometimes a drink (or three) makes life with two teenage boys a whole lot easier. Honestly, I still have a smoke now and then when I’m stressed (or when I’m out drinking). I don’t use drugs but I do have opinions on that front. But I don’t think my OPINION is something I need to share with everyone and force others to live by. You know why? It’s not my business what other people do unless it directly impacts me! If someone is drinking or doing drugs and I get hurt, I will follow the letter of the law and have them prosecuted. But until then, it’s their life, for better or worse.
By the way, in this part of the list we can also add eating red meat, drinking too much soda, and exercising – and all that other healthy crap! If you do or don’t do these things, it’s a personal option, not something for others – especially governments – to regulate. Don’t tell me how to live and I won’t tell you how to either! This rant from Denis Leary in Demolition Man sums up where we’re headed and my feelings on the subject so very succinctly.
This is still a very touchy subject to many, 42 long years after Roe v Wade. And it’s the single area in which I think those with FACTS should fight for (or against) the existing law. Because babies can’t fight for their lives, someone needs to step up for them. And someone needs to step up for the moms who have a right to make decisions about their bodies. And yes, even for the dads who helped create a human entity.
However, I don’t think every idiot with an opinion needs to weigh in on this and force laws into existence to meet their opinions. Let those with facts, appropriate knowledge, and the right skills make decisions on this issue. Then we need to respect that decision by letting those who choose to get one to live with that choice.
And I will say that I am pro-choice. I believe in people making the best choices for themselves and, in this case, their families. I HOPE they choose life and then opting for adoption if they can’t raise the child themselves, but I do not believe in forcing that upon them. And for those who counter with “God is Pro Life!” or “Your mom was pro life” (annoying bumper sticker statements I verbally respond to while driving) – I would respond that God actually gives us Free Will (aka, choice) so who are who are we to take that away from others? And, no, my mother was (and I think still is) pro-choice – but she CHOSE to have me and both my brothers. In purely Christian terms, God hopes that we will make the right choice but He knows we’ll screw up and then ask for forgiveness. That’s kind of how this whole religion thing works. We strive for perfection, try to walk in His footsteps but He knows – He knew before we were even born – that we will mess up and make bad (…say it with me…) CHOICES.
Sex & Porn
Woo boy. There are people who don’t like sex?! I can kinda understand porn (not really) but sex? Um…seriously? Well…huh. There is one very easy answer to both of these “issues” – don’t like it, don’t do it!
Why tell someone else THEY can’t have sex or watch porn (or, hell, make it if they want to) just because you don’t like it? Is someone having sex interfering with your right to NOT have sex? If it is, THAT is an issue (most commonly referred to as rape). Otherwise, why the hell do you care if someone is having wild crazy midnight rides on their bed, couch or kitchen counter? Don’t like seeing someone else do those things? Then stay away from porn sites, avoid Playboy and don’t read erotica. That would include my forthcoming novels, BTW. The only person to whom you should make clear your opinion (there’s that word again) for these two matters is your significant other. And if THEY don’t respect your choice to not have sex and your preference for them to not watch porn, then you have the right to LEAVE THEM!
I have, I think, five shotguns and a couple of rifles in my house and two BB guns – all under lock and key. I personally have never fired one and probably never will. I have touched them, but only to move them when I try to hide Christmas presents in the gun cabinet. Personally, I don’t believe in that level of violence and prefer not to use a gun for any reason. However, my spouse is from Texas and he was in the Army. Hunting and owning guns were a way of life when he was growing up and he was an expert marksman in the military. My teen sons own the BB guns and are already decent shots. I won’t deny their option to have them as long as they don’t force one into my hands. We get along that way. I think if someone learns properly how to use them, owns them legally and uses them for the right reasons, more power to them. And, may their gun-toting asses be near me when the need arises!
One item that’s not on the list above and probably should be – breastfeeding. Dear me, people have opinions on this subject! Not just the HUGE issue of “breastfeeding in PUBLIC” but about breastfeeding in general.
When I had the twins, I felt as though I was constantly judged for giving them bottles instead of making them suck on my breasts. I had very valid reasons for my choices but they were no one else’s business. I still won’t publicly share those reasons and the boys are 13 now! But I had lactation consultants and nurses who wouldn’t respect my choice until I got angry and yelled. What new mom needs that? We’re scared and confused enough without having these choices questioned and ridiculed. And, obviously, my twins are so much the worse for having been bottle fed – at 13 years old, 5’7”, 125 & 145 lbs, active in several sports and genius-level intelligence. Yeah, I obviously chose…poorly.
As for doing it in public, believe it or not, that’s what breasts are actually designed to do! They’ve evolved as sex “toys” but they are literally the most efficient way of feeding children. It’s natural! Yet I actually had another mom recently apologize to ME (another woman and mom) because she wasn’t expecting to see me and she was breastfeeding when I showed up. In public. Uncovered. The horror! The shame! Uh – fucking NO. It was awesome! The baby is obviously happy and healthy. This women has four children between newborn and 13 and she shouldn’t have to apologize for a damn thing! I told her it was perfectly beautiful and honestly I was a bit jealous that A) she had the guts to be open about it and B) she has a beautiful baby to feed in such a manner. I told her as I would tell any woman, “If people don’t like it, they can do one simple thing – NOT LOOK!”
The Freedom of Speech
Do you get the overall picture here? Have I beat the dead horse enough? Just because YOU don’t like something doesn’t mean it needs to be banned! Instead, maybe you need to get over yourself. Please! Since when is this country all about meeting the opinions or needs of one person or a small group of people?
In this day and age, social media has offered up the biggest platform for part of our first amendment rights – the Freedom of Speech. Everyone now has a place to air their opinions. Like me writing this long ranty post. I couldn’t get away with this in many other countries. Whether it be because of my religious beliefs (or lack thereof), my gender, my age, my non-conformist nature or simply because someone doesn’t like the look of me, I could be thrown in jail, tortured and even killed for writing this type of message. But in the USA, I can do this! I can have an opinion. I can speak my mind. I am granted this freedom by our beautiful Constitution and the Amendments we’ve added to it.
The rights I do NOT have – and no one should have – are the right to make others believe as I believe or the right to make others live as I live. Wouldn’t the world be a boring place if it was filled with people like me? Or like you? Yes, you, as wonderful as you are, should not be imprinted on the over 7 billion other people on the planet.
America is Advanced Citizenship
What I think makes this country truly great, amazingly unique, is that we (used to) value the individual – their spirit, their creativity, their mind, and their heart. We praised the entrepreneur chasing the American Dream. We embraced the Rebel, whether or not they had a cause. We encouraged diversity and individuality and embraced the different and unique. Now, so many want this country to be sanitized, homogenized, pasteurized, synchronized, legalized, and baptized – and only those stamped with public approval will survive. If you don’t conform you’re shut down, ridiculed, “bullied”, and ostracized into oblivion. I honestly do not believe this is what our founding fathers had in mind!
“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 cannot just be a flag; the symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Now show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then, you can stand up and sing about the ‘land of the free.’” – Andrew Shepard, The American President
I think it’s time for all of us to embrace our freedom of speech and to speak our individual minds. Not to force that opinion on others but to stand up for what we believe, even if it’s not popular. Maybe you match me on some points and maybe you are my polar opposite on others. Awesome! I’ll live my life and you live yours. I’m not hurting you and you’re not hurting me. We’ll walk together at times and at times we will walk away from one another. We can still be friends if we accept those differences. Even better – celebrate those differences. THAT is what makes this country beautiful. That is what makes us free.
XO – T.