It’s obvious that Americans are as concerned about speech as they’ve ever been. It’s good to know this issue has retained its vibrancy throughout our history. We may pledge allegiance to a flag, but our real devotion is to our fellow Americans.
It seems everyone has something to say about free speech these days.
A reader objected to a letter that my paper published recently, which opposed gay relationships on religious grounds. Saying we probably wouldn’t use a letter expressing negative views about ethnic minorities, for example, the woman asked why we would expose gay people to this kind of repulsive talk.
Several readers questioned statistics cited by the Federation for American Immigration, which was referenced in my column last week. They said FAIR has been listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, leaving doubts about the legitimacy of this group’s study on illegal immigration.
Another reader recently left a voice message offering his opinion on a topic in the news. But after the shooting deaths in Tucson, Ariz., he called back to request that his comments not be made public.
Reflecting on these incidents, it’s obvious that Americans are as concerned about speech as they’ve ever been. It’s good to know this issue has retained its vibrancy throughout our history.
When it comes to how ideas are conveyed, I take the questions raised by all readers seriously. Be it positive or negative, this input is crucial for assessing what’s on people’s minds.
The atrocity in Tucson has pushed many Americans to renew calls for greater civility in our public discourse. I encourage mutual respect between individuals even if they vigorously oppose each other’s views.
Disagreeing with people doesn’t mean you should ignore their humanity. We may pledge allegiance to a flag, but our real devotion is to our fellow Americans, regardless of their ideology.
Maintaining an environment in which free speech can thrive is so paramount that our founding document gives it special protection. Even though hate speech is never appropriate, it is constitutional.
Balancing freedom of expression and public civility has never been easy, nor should it be. Our society remains strong through this process of give and take.
We often feel compelled to resolve the tension that arises in this struggle with either complete civility or absolute free speech triumphing. Although this is a natural instinct, it’s misguided; each side serves as a check against the excesses of the other. We must learn to live with this conflict, as discomforting as that can be.
Jerry Moore is the opinions editor for Suburban Life Publications. Contact him at (630) 368-8930 or firstname.lastname@example.org.