Freedom of speech; now there’s an interesting, but oft-misunderstood concept. Just what is it, and how far does it go? Does one have a right, for instance, to shout ‘fire!’ in a crowded theater?
The U.S. Constitution provides that Congress shall make no law abridging freedom of speech, yet the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), the law governing our military forces, makes it punishable for military personnel to insult the President – or something to that effect. Is that not an abridgement of the US citizen member of the military’s right to free speech?
If you thought I was going to answer yes to that last question, well, surprise; I think the concept of absolute, total freedom of speech is unwise, and practically unattainable. Take the theater example above, for instance. Would anyone in his or her right mind argue that you have the right to possible cause panic death by such speech? I think not.The other reason we will never have absolute freedom of speech is human nature.
Sorry to say folks, but we Homo sapiens are a selfish, self-centered lot. When we say certain things should be so, without often being aware of it, we really mean as pertains to us as individuals. My wife, for example, is a firm believer in freedom of speech and the right to criticize – when it comes to things I do wrong and her explication of those transgressions, often at length. Alas, the reciprocal is not true. I am, under penalty of sleeping in the garage for a week, forbidden from reminding her of the time she locked the keys in the car, in the driveway, with the house keys on the same chain. I have lost track of the times she has awakened me at two a.m. to ask if I could remember the name of the lady who talked too long to her at the reception the week previous; but heaven help me if I ask her a question during “Dancing With The Stars.”
You get my drift? Freedom of speech, within reasonable bounds, is a great idea, and I strongly support it. Every nation should encourage its citizens to exercise their right to say what’s on their minds. Citizens on their part should exercise good judgment in expressing themselves. Freedom of speech is not a license to say anything about anyone, without regard to possible harmful consequences.
Now, I have only one request; please don’t tell any of this to my wife.
Causes Charles Ray Supports
The Nature Conservancy
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial