Freedom of speech nearly dead



I believe the day will come, if not in my lifetime, possibly in the lifetime of my children, when a column like this one — an opinion piece — will no longer be allowed. It may exist in some shape or form, but it will not be a true expression of “freedom of speech.”

It will go through a censor, maybe by the government or by some civilian watchdog group which will read it over and tell the author whether his or her opinion is “acceptable” to the masses.

We see it day-after-day in this country. People no longer have freedom of speech. If you express an opinion which is not that of the majority, or the outspoken minority in some cases, you are chastised for your beliefs.

Often it takes the form of namecalling, the person expressing the offending opinion is just slapped with a label like “redneck” or “hillbilly.” And there are others — right-wing wacko, bleeding heart liberal — just to name a few.

If you’re a celebrity, expressing a very un-Hollywood opinion could straight up cost you your job. You are almost better off not answering a straight-forward question, the message being “honesty isn’t the best policy” if you want to keep working in TV, the recording industry or movies.

As a friend of mine said recently: “If you ask an honest man a question, expect an honest answer.” Along with that, it drums up the response Jack Nicholson’s character in “A Few Good Men” says to Tom Cruise when the truth is demanded of him on the stand — “You can’t handle the truth!” That’s the problem — people can’t handle the truth when someone speaks his or her mind. If it is not a popular viewpoint then it is vilified and the person who has expressed this opinion is ostracized.

We, as a nation, need to toughen up and allow people to have their opinion. We can’t expect everyone to share the opinion of the mainstream culture in America.

We also cannot treat everyone who speaks their mind and expresses sometimes insulting opinions as if they must be punished. You don’t have to like the offensive opinion, you don’t have to agree — but we should allow them to have it and share it, especially when they are asked. And it’s OK to disagree and to express that displeasure by speaking out, through the written word or by directly debating someone’s opinion.

That is the American way, not this idea that people who have what some consider an unpopular opinion be fired from their jobs, suspended from work, ordered to apologize or to beg the public for its forgiveness.

Let people have their own thoughts, their own opinions and stop fueling this need to punish those who speak their mind.

If you don’t agree with them, say so. Speak out about what your opinion is and why you feel that way.

I for one don’t want to see opinions stifled, but instead let the people hear them so they can make up their own mind what they think is right or wrong.

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