by Jay O'Toole
Do all people have the same freedom to speak their minds in the public square?
"Freedom of Speech doesn't seem to apply to me, when others do not accept what I have to say." I have often felt this and I have encountered others in my travels, who seem to feel the same way. However, we are often more demanding of others than we are of ourselves. We expect to be accepted in our speech always. We accept others in their speech less often.
Therefore, it seems to be consistent with human nature that we each want to control our environments to the highest level possible. This control includes the quality of speech we are willing to allow to be exposed to our lives.
Societies tend to act as a unit, regarding the dominant paradigms of each unique Society. This means that ideas that are within acceptable parameters of agreement with the dominant paradigm (or belief system) are given greater latitude (or freedom of expression.) In these same societies ideas that disagree even mildly with the dominant belief system are frowned upon and even publicly shamed. Ideas with strongly-oppositional stances are rarely tolerated at all.
In the home this operation of Freedom of Speech shows in microcosm.
As a child my parent's word was law. I had great freedom to agree with their speech. Opposition to their speech had a much lower level of acceptance and adjoining freedom.
Simply put, if you agree with Society's driving principles, then you can expect to experience great "Freedom of Speech." If you are in opposition to Society's core beliefs, then you are strongly encouraged to limit your freedom of speech to your own home or even to your own mind.
This practice is not in keeping with the Freedom of Speech, but it happens far more often than we might like to believe.
In my home country of the United States of America Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Religion have been the twin principles that have steered the course of our great nation throughout its history of more than two centuries now. However, this set of twins has long been raucous in their expressions. As Freedom of Religion, (which is in itself a very specific form of speech,) is in the ascendency Freedom of Speech (in its generalized form) feels slighted by its inability to express freely its deeply-held non-religious beliefs. However, as Freedom of Speech takes on a more secular feel, then Freedom of Religion feels silenced in its expression of deeply-held religious beliefs.
For instance people of faith had great "Freedom of Speech" during the first century and a half of this nation's history to preach and teach the truth of the Biblical Account of the Creation "of the heavens and the earth." However, for most of the past century that freedom has been in the decline, due to the Scopes Trial in the 1920s in Tennessee on the subject of the teaching of evolutionary theory. Nowadays, evolutionary teaching has much greater "Freedom of Speech," whereas the teaching of the Creation in often frowned upon and openly shamed in the dominant halls of academia.
In a similar way the earlier days of U.S. history saw great Freedom of Speech, regarding male-dominated ideas. Female mores were minimized or ignored altogether. However, since the advent of the twentieth century, female-oriented mores have had increasingly stronger Freedom of Speech. Traditionally masculine ideas have very little freedom of speech, being moderated continually by the female-oriented Society.
Traditional marriage proponents had great Freedom of Speech throughout much of American History. Proponents of other types of pairings were not welcomed to the table of conversation. However, in recent years proponents of gay marriage express much greater freedom of speech, citing legal cases in their favor. Proponents of traditional marriage have been told by the leaders of Starbucks Coffee Shops in essence to "just stay home." At least in this one case we must drink our coffee in silence and leave our Freedom of Speech at home. However, in all fairness many houses of worship exclude oppositional speech, too.
In theory at least humans give great lip service to Freedom of Speech, but in practice some groups of humans are "more equal than others."
In the experience of this writer Freedom of Speech is limited to the dominant viewpoint whereas my own views are considered to be in the minority. I no longer traverse the realm of Facebook, Humanity's fifth largest "country" of human interaction and the expression of deeply-held beliefs. Why? Facebook is the largest place for drama outside of Hollywood and the stages of New York City. I used to express my deeply-held Christian beliefs on Facebook only to have my eyebrows "scorched" and my humanity shamed.
It is good to know that many secularists can enjoy Freedom of Speech these days in many venues. It is great to be a member of Writing.Com, since I have found a new home for my Christian beliefs, where they are allowed if not embraced by everyone here. In small town America I still feel great Freedom of Speech, regarding my ideals as well. However, when I visit cities where the populations are larger, I have learned to "play my cards closer to my chest" with regard to beliefs.
In all honesty Freedom of Speech honors individuals, who do not hold my belief system as much as it honors people who do. In a post-modern world that celebrates all beliefs as being of equal value...an exclusivist belief, such as the idea that Jesus of Nazareth is Lord of all (John 14:6) should be accepted as readily as any inclusive belief that anyone can be lord, if we are going to be consistent with our verbiage.
How do I celebrate the Freedom of Speech of someone who tells me that my beliefs are wrong? I can say with a smile, "I can see that you really believe your beliefs. I am happy for you. May your beliefs do you good all your life and beyond. If you will excuse me, I am going over to this next table so I can enjoy my beliefs. Have a nice day!"
Freedom of Speech means that no matter how strongly someone else believes their beliefs and expresses them to the world, I have the same right to strongly believe my beliefs and express them to the world, too.
Word Count: 1108 words
by Jay O'Toole
on May 10th, 2017