What does it mean to have freedom of speech? Most people would say that freedom of speech is guaranteed in America, a republic that built such protections into its very fiber through its Constitution and Bill of Rights.
But again, what does having freedom of speech really mean? Legally it means Americans can say what they want without fear of persecution for speaking out. Yet all sorts of mean, evil things, once spoken, can also get you prosecuted for libel, slander or treason. So freedom of speech is not some gross guarantee. In fact it is the very opposite. And here is a surprising fact that many people have never considered. Freedom of speech begins with a will to forgive or there is no freedom of speech at all.
The idea that forgiveness should serve as the foundation for freedom of speech may seem contrary to many people today. That is because freedom of speech has been used to achieve many partisan objectives, including manipulating the masses into thinking some things are true when they are not. We generally accept that is one of the rights imbued with freedom of speech: You are allowed to convince people you are right about some topic or idea even if you are very wrong and a lying, evil bastard.
That said, we must instantly and automatically forgive the rights of the evil, lying bastards if we ever hope to protect that thing we call freedom of speech. Instead the average citizen must wade into every day forgiving first and finding ways to counteract the lies later.
This is the same contradiction Christianity fairly forces upon us as spirits in the world. We are to be selfless in our endeavors, free from covetousness and want, yet somehow manage to survive. Ideally we are not cognizant of any measure of the potential goodness (or supposed godliness) in ourselves. This contradiction sits at the heart of Christian faith: that as individuals we should concern ourselves only with mattering to God. This is the ironic discipline of selflessness.
In America, atheists, agnostics and all points in between are free to form their own lines to freedom. Because freedom of religion, both for it and from it, are also protected rights in America.
Our civil freedoms all come with a measure of discipline, another seeming contradiction. The Constitution is no easier to uphold than the words of the Bible. All great principles breed their own disciplines.
So we live with a set of contradictions when it comes to freedom of speech. While some people choose to respect this freedom, others do not. They are largely undisciplined in their use of freedom of speech.
But the true patriot recognizes this value and sets about to use it wisely. The truly enlightened know this respect is being issued, but need not say it. They exercise their freedoms in truth by being humble and forgiving, especially toward those who exercise the freedom but do not seem to respect the principles behind it. This is especially true in arriving considerately at opinions on what is right and what is wrong, versus thinking you always know. The considerate, in other words, are worthy of consideration while the inconsiderate do not deserve such respect. We must still forgive them or risk losing the same freedoms for ourselves.
Those who believe they always own the truth will patently abuse their freedom of speech because self-aggrandizement and getting their own way is their quick reward. They are the bullies and the bullheaded. Stiff necked, self-righteous and cynical at heart, they claim religion and politics and power for their very own, then accuse those who disagree with them of being unpatriotic. We know who these people are. Even those who claim to admire them have in their hearts deep personal doubts about the things they hear, and fear. That is why they turn their entire ideology over to people who talk the loudest and act the proudest. To drown out their own fears. They vote the same way too, choosing candidates whose doctrines seem to be ironclad. They seldom are, and most prove to be either hypocrites or criminals in the end.
Turning freedom of speech over to fools like these makes fools of the rest of us. The slickest among the sickest when confronted for their actions hide behind the freedom of speech clause, making excuses for their abuses, telling us it was all just a prank. Entertainment. No harm done. Forget they ever said it. Bastards and inveterate bitches, all of them. But they will never know the true meaning of freedom of speech because they have lost their ability to be considerate. Consideration is the ultimate first foundation in freedom of speech. Those of you who with self respect should not forget it.