Thursday, December 19, 2013

On Free Speech

I was just telling someone tonight about the time I ran into a 2nd grade student (this was when I worked in Stockton) at Target. It was about this time, a few days before Christmas. I was wandering the toy aisle looking for stuff for my nephew when I saw her, with her father. I remember thinking, "Oh, she goes to my school."

Her dad grabbed her ear and yanked. He said, "If you fucking do that again, I will fucking rip your head off." (I could dilute the language for the faint-of-heart, but choose to present it to you as I heard it that night.)

One could argue that the 1st Amendment protects his right to be a perfect asshole to his child, but I imagine that 99.9% of you have a horrified look on your face and are thinking, "Oh, my God, that's child abuse." And yes, I reported it, because I take that mandated reporter form I signed very seriously. And I'm sure we all agree that it is unspeakably bad to say something like that to a child. It is damaging. She will grow up thinking it's okay to treat others like this. Someone who is in a position to teach her cannot talk to her this way!

So I look at this Duck Dynasty thing that's been in the news of late and the people who lament that he's only exercising his rights, etc. etc. and I think, wow. You honestly think it's okay to spew hateful language about certain segments of the population, and write it off as, "Yeah, he's a jerk, I don't agree with him, but he has that right to think that way and to say it!" when every day, bullied LGBT youth commit suicide. When young people of color are killed for buying Skittles and walking through their own neighborhood (and the murderer--a man who has proven since that he is unstable and capable of violence--gets off). 

I stopped identifying as a Christian a long time ago, because I started seeing that instead of being welcoming places for all, must churches I encountered expected an almost blind conformity to their norms...norms that didn't sit well with me. I don't believe that homosexuality is sinful, or abnormal. I don't believe that anyone chooses to be LGBT--I've known plenty of people in all categories and none of them would choose to be ostracized simply for being what they know in their hearts is true to them. I am a card-carrying feminist, a liberal/progressive, and I'd rather focus my energies on making the world a safer place for marginalized people than on hating them or fearing them for their skin color, their socio-economic status, their religion, their gender identity, or their sexuality.

There comes a point when old opinions simply must make way for new, enlightened thinking. I saw a Tweet today that said something along the lines of how we'd still be "shitting outside and there'd be no cell phones" if we weren't open to new ways of doing things.

Absolutely, this duck dude has every right to be a homophobic and a racist...and the American public has every right to call him on that and say, "Dude, get some enlightenment, why don't you?" It's not attacking his free speech, it's promoting tolerance and kindness in a world that needs more tolerance and kindness every day.

I don't know. There are times I look at posts from people I genuinely care about and think, "Wow, you honestly back this guy's actions up?" or "You really believe that any gun reform is evil, even in the wake of so many horrible mass shootings?" Sometimes I wonder if I shouldn't just cut ties because I truly have the hardest time understanding where they come from, how they can possibly be people I want to associate with if they believe that someone is okay standing up and comparing homosexual love to bestiality. People I care about are in same-sex relationships. They are not ruining the moral fabric of this country; the people ruining the moral fabric of this country are the ones who judge, who say hateful things, who demean human love in a world where we allow hate to just...fester.

I'll get off my soap box. I just ask you all to apply some thought to this. Because if Mr. Duck Dude has a right to say the hateful things he did, then maybe it can be argued that a father can tell his seven-year-old he'll rip her fucking head off.

That's not a world I want to live in.

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