Free Speech Should Equal Fair Speech
Posted by Rick Ostopowicz on 5th February 2017
Image courtesy of The College Fix

Hi folks. “Editor Rick” here. Typically I am on the other side of the posts–I “bat cleanup,” so to speak, and make the posts you see here a little better, cleaner, and more entertaining to read.

With that said, sometimes I like to jump to the writer’s side of things and share my opinions. This will be one of those times.

Our world is a very temperamental place right now. People on many sides of many issues are all battling against each other, either in court, in the streets, or in social media. Say the wrong thing, even if it wasn’t meant to be the wrong thing, and you’ll be crucified faster than you can hit the “edit” button or “delete” key.

This is the world we live in, folks, so we need to get used to it. However, I’d like to offer an alternative.

Let’s just be nice and use some empathy.

You see, today there are many people who are just waiting for someone else to say something–anything–in order to pounce on the person who dared to have a public opinion. Right or wrong, someone is waiting to call you names and destroy you and your entire reputation in the name of standing up for a cause.

But why do we have to be like that?

What makes me scratch my head the most is that the groups who demand free speech are the ones who want to shut it down for the opposition. The riots at UC Berkley were a HUGE dose of irony. After all, Berkley is where the “freedom of speech on campus” movement was seemingly born. Yet, the violent protestors determined that someone should not speak simply because they did not agree with what the speaker had to say.

That, folks, is just sad.

Years ago, during my radio days, I had the honor of interviewing a former Army soldier who had served in Vietnam. When he returned home from fighting in a foreign land, having seen many of his comrades in arms blown to pieces, he stepped off of a plane and into a swarm of protestors who spit on him and called him perverse names. When I asked him how that made him feel, he didn’t hesitate for an instant before replying, “They reminded me of what I was fighting for. I sure as heck didn’t agree with what they were saying, but I would fight to the death for their right to say it.”

Poignant words, folks. Words we should all remember.

Freedom of speech goes both ways. If you shut someone down because you don’t agree with what that person says, then someone else has the right to shut YOU down if that person doesn’t agree with you. If you want the right to say whatever you want, then you need to give someone else that same opportunity, even if you don’t like what that person has to say.

At the very least, use some empathy. You may not be able to sympathize with someone, but you can simply understand that person’s feelings before making a mean or belittling comment.

As an old mentor of mine once said, “If your pet canary dying is the most tragic thing to ever happen to you, then your pet canary dying is a tragedy.” (Translation: Just because you have had worse things happen to you doesn’t mean that you can put someone else down just because that person hasn’t experienced what you have experienced.)

Finally, before I leave my soapbox, let me offer one last piece of advice for everyone on both/all sides of the rhetoric. Please, I implore you–get a tougher skin. Things can only offend you if you let them. If all you do is keep getting offended by everything, then your life is going to be pretty miserable. Learn to laugh things off, or just let things go. The less you let others bother you, the less you’ll be bothered.

With all of that said, let’s see what comments get posted. I’m sure there are some who will applaud me and others who will vilify me. Either way, I’m good with whatever you have to say.

After all, I’ve had my say, so now you can have yours.

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