It's Lowell's Turn: We can’t stand without a foundation
The following is an opinion column written by an Echo Press editorial staff member. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the Echo Press.
For almost 250 years, the United States has been a land of freedom and individual rights.
After declaring our independence from Britain, the authors of the Constitution set out a framework for how they wanted our new government to be run. But it wasn’t until the Bill of Rights was added, that the constitution was ratified, and the foundation for our new county was set in place. The Bill of Rights was unique in that it emphasized individual rights and specified what the government could not do.
More specifically, the first amendment states in part that the government cannot restrict freedom of speech. Of course, that doesn’t mean you can say absolutely anything you want at any time, but it does mean that we have the right to believe what we want and generally to communicate those beliefs to others. The fact that it comes at the beginning of the Bill of Rights shows how important this idea was for the formation of the United States.
But that certainly hasn’t kept the government from attempting to restrict this foundational right. We’ve witnessed these abuses like never before in the past few years, when some in the government have decided that anything they don't want to hear is “disinformation” and must be stamped out.
As egregious as these violations are, they are generally recognized for what they are and not tolerated for long.
However, perhaps even more disturbing is the fact that we are now limiting our own freedom of speech. While we may agree with the Constitutional right of free speech, at least in principle, our actions don’t support it. As soon as we see or hear something we don’t like, we start calling for organizations, society, or even the government to do something to prevent those ideas from being heard. It appears many of us now believe freedom of speech only applies to words that we agree with and want to hear.
The ability to freely discuss, ponder and entertain ideas — especially in a public forum and by public officials — no longer exists in our society. Now, every idea must be carefully crafted so as not to offend anyone, as well as to preclude the possibility that anything could be intentionally misconstrued and used against us. Those who dare to speak without filtering everything and making sure it is politically correct, are quickly and vigorously prosecuted and convicted of their crimes through both traditional and social media.
It happens all too frequently. It’s especially troubling when those who have been found guilty of the crime of free speech try to apologize or even resign. They may think they are being virtuous and doing what’s right, but they’re not; they are simply giving in to a small group of radical troublemakers whose only goal is to tear down and destroy. In the process, all those involved — the troublemakers, those who give in to their demands, the news media that makes a big deal out of nothing, and everyone else who tolerates this nonsense — are pulling out the foundation that this country was built on.
Have we forgotten what free speech is? Is it about saying things that make everyone feel good? No, It’s the freedom to say something that might offend others and hurt their feelings. It’s the freedom to say things that make people and the governments mad. And it’s probably even the ability to utter things considered to be “hate speech,” nowadays. Free speech is the ability to say “I strongly disagree with what you say, but I defend your right to say it.” It’s the free, unedited discussion and diversity of ideas, good, bad and ugly. Without that, there is no true freedom and no United States of America.
“It’s Our Turn” is a weekly column that rotates among members of the Echo Press editorial staff.