"Let's have a great show!"
Chris found a walking trail and thought we should take it.
The early evening breeze was crisp.
We ended up beside a small white tent and watched as a band exited.
They cheered each other on. "Let's make this a good one."
Instruments in tow, they made their way to the stage.
And just as we thought, hey, let's stay and listen, the emcee announced the event's purpose.
It was a reproductive rights rally.
My mind spun as the music started.
Assembled in a small, grassy area was a group of people who worshiped death.
And yet, they had every right to be there because our Constitution says so.
And, as much as we despised their gathering, no matter how wrongheaded it was, free speech means free speech.
Yes. Last week, I wrote about Dr. McCullough, medical tyranny and free speech.
Yet, it’s a topic that won’t go away, nor should we let it.
Because this is the battle.
Freedom of speech is an inherent right.
It’s blood-bought. And it belongs to every last one of us.
Men and women of Alabama, it cannot be given or taken away.
Not from our cold dead fingers.
No matter how shrewd the detractors. No matter how slick their speech.
No matter how targeted their attacks are, on you or on me.
Free speech means free speech.
And this follow up is a reminder that it’s game on.
The ancient Greeks pioneered free speech as a democratic principle. The old Greek word "parrhesia" means "free speech," or "to speak candidly." The term first appeared in Greek literature around the end of the fifth century B.C.
And aren't we glad for their pioneering ways?
Is it just me, or are we doing a lot of self-censoring right now?
Because who knows who we might offend?
What happened to us?
And, who launched this assault on speech?
Doesn’t it seem that certain groups can say what they think, like the pro-choice rally we stumbled on?
And yet, in the "No Platform" Brigade, Ayaan Hirsi Alivia said,
No matter how evil, all speech is protected by the Constitution. By allowing groups to express themselves out in the open, we can see what they are saying and, if we disagree, counter it.
No matter how evil, indeed.
Because free speech means free speech.
Who are we without our ability to speak, and do so, freely?
Like Kyrie Irving, who's been made to apologize for posting a wordless tweet that sent viewers to a movie that some find highly offensive?
Are we not allowed to offend?
And what about the platform that allowed viewers to access the movie pictured in Kyrie's tweet?
Why aren't they punished? Or is Amazon too big to fail?
Free speech means free speech, right?
So why punish some and not others?
That seems to be the case for college students right here in Alabama.
State Senator Arthur Orr commented on this in a recent op-ed for 1819, saying, "Unfortunately, on some Alabama campuses, we still have free speech zones and students are required to obtain advance permission to speak on certain topics. Nothing says "freedom of speech" like being forced to seek bureaucratic approval to exercise that freedom."
The Campus Free Speech Act explicitly prohibits speech zones and protects the right of all members of the campus community to speak in outdoor parts of the campus spontaneously.
That's crazy. To speak only in certain areas? Are our kids so fragile that they can't hear opposing views? Or ideas? After all, what is the point of college? Is it not to engage with diverse ideas? And even offensive viewpoints?
Again, Senator Orr wrote,
"The Campus Free Speech Act is being contested before the Alabama Supreme Court. Supporters of free speech on campuses should watch with interest to see whether university policies that burden student free speech can withstand legal scrutiny."
And don’t we hope it turns out in the student’s favor?
Don’t we hope that free speech still means free speech? And not just in a tiny, segregated area?
Whether it's a pro-choice rally or Kyrie Irving or at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, free speech is the fight.
Ideas are worth the battle.
We are not so precious that we get to avoid offending each other.
Either speech is free, or it's not.
Either we police everyone and everything, or we don't.
But suppressing speech and invalidating what we don't like is weak.
And it's not who we are. It’s not how we were founded.
This is the battle.
So. Go fight.
399 BC Socrates speaks to the jury at his trial: 'If you offered to let me off this time on condition I am not any longer to speak my mind... I should say to you, "Men of Athens, I shall obey the Gods rather than you."'
Free speech isn’t a threat to democracy. It may be the only thing that saves it.
Amie Beth Shaver is a speaker, writer and media commentator. Her column appears every Wednesday in 1819 News. Shaver served on the Alabama GOP State Executive Committee, was a candidate for State House District 43 and spokeswoman for Allied Women.
The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to [email protected].
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