This is what freedom of speech sounds like

Circling back to something I wrote the other day.

I’m not afraid to give voice to idiots with addled brains, because I believe in a marketplace of ideas the idiots will be seen for what they are, no matter how loudly they shout.

To go a step further, sometimes someone who appears to be an addle-brained idiot will make a point worth considering, if I give it a fair thought and don’t dismiss it because of who thought it first.

My main point, however, is that I was taught that freedom of speech means you’re entitled to speak your piece, and so is everyone else. That means you might make people angry or hurt, but you still have the right to say it. And it means they have the right to reply with words that might anger or hurt you.

In a perfect world, this back-and-forth goes back and forth until some understanding or compromise or perhaps even agreement takes place. More often lately, it ends with “Let’s just agree to disagree,” which is a civilized way of saying, “You’re an addle-brained idiot and I’m tired of trying to fix you.”

In this less-than-perfect world, the disagreement goes even further, to efforts to shut people up, deny them the same soapbox you offer people who agree with you, and do your best to proclaim them unpersons.

To phrase it less ironically than John Mellencamp did, that ain’t America, land of the free.

When you lobby to deny a guest speaker their podium, when you applaud silencing opponents, when you let someone decide for you what is appropriate speech, then you give aid and comfort to tyranny, plain and simple.

Twenty years ago, there was a lot of talk after the Sept. 11 attacks that terrorists “hate our freedoms.”

What word should we use to describe the censors who hate our freedoms?

Published by WarrenBluhm

Wordsmith and podcaster, Warren is a reporter, editor and storyteller who lives near the shores of Green Bay with his wife, two golden retrievers, and an insistent cat. Author of Gladness is Infectious, 24 flashes, How to Play a Blue Guitar, A Bridge at Crossroads, Refuse to be Afraid, and A Scream of Consciousness.

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