Scott Coleman, Editor of the Hill Country News here in the Austin area, asked the regular columnists to discuss the Issue of Free Speech and Hate Speech and the Bill of Rights.
Here is how I dealt with this assignment:
Germany was one of the most cultivated countries in Europe. It was one of the leading players in the Enlightenment, and yet we discovered at the end of WWII, that a concentration camp can exist within the same vicinity as a university. Similar discoveries are happening in America today. We are discovering that our cherished freedoms and our hallowed Constitution have been placed in concentration camps for the mind.
Being in graduate school on the east coast in 1965, I was thrilled by Mario Savio and the Free Speech Movement at Sproul Hall in Berkley. I fervently believe in Free Speech….even with all its dangers. But in all the fear-based decisions America has made since 9-11, we have repeatedly and willfully given up the freedoms we tell our soldiers they are fighting for, that we teach our children to believe in, and we talk about as if they are sitting right next to us. However, these freedoms are long gone.
Behind the concept of free speech is the concept of critical thinking. A nation of people who are able to think critically can act responsibly in matters of freedom. For all of this century America has chosen not to think critically and we have taught our children, by example, not to think critically. In fact, right here in Texas, the 2012 Republican Platform forbade the teaching of critical thinking to Texas students because it would challenge and undermine parental authority.
Citizens who can think critically would never be tricked by crowds gathering to lynch gays, or black people, nor would we allow police to shoot unarmed people or our armies to invade any country whose actions offend us. For people who can think critically, freedom of speech is a basic requirement. If we are not free to speak the truth, we will never know the truth.
In our giving up the right to free speech, and the right not to be victimized by unlawful searches and seizures, and the right to peaceful assembly, keeping only the right to bear 20th century guns and bullets, we have convinced ourselves that living in a totally surveiled society has made us safe.
To test that out, watch the: Politically-Challenged: Texas Tech Edition on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yRZZpk_9k8E) and you will be appalled at the voluntary and willful ignorance of the students at this highly regarded Texas university. This short video gives rich new meaning to the concept of dumbing our citizens down, right here in Texas.
As Christians we can look back on our history and see how we have been on both sides of free speech. Christians, even Texas Christians, have doled out a serious share of hate speech as recently as this past election. But forbidding free speech, making laws about ‘political correctness’, and trying to control this behavior will not work.
Outlawing things we do not like is not the way to change anything. It just puts that behavior underground where it can fester and mutate and come back to bite us when we least expect it. The only way to create change and to turn the volume down on hate speech is to present ourselves with behaviours, examples and models that inspire feelings of positivity, openness, acceptance and peace.
Behind all of this is the truly difficult lesson we most need to learn: ALL EIGHT BILLION OF US ARE ONE, WE ARE ALL CONNECTED and when we know the truth of that, we will set ourselves free to speak and do anything because we will know what we do to any one of us, we do also to ourselves.