I know it doesn’t seem like it in today’s America. But freedom of speech still exists. You can say what you believe. In an era of cancel culture, and people often shouting down things they don’t like, free speech still exists. Contrary to what the “mob” believes, the right to speak one’s mind will always exist. For as long as America stands. One just has to have the courage to speak or act, and know their rights as an American. Freedom of speech is just one of the many rights our ancestors won from the British Crown during the Revolutionary War.
Some of the most controversial things in society today, like burning the American flag, kneeling during the Star Spangled Banner, speaking against the Black Lives Matter movement, and flying the Confederate Flag, are all protected by the First Amendment as freedom of speech. No matter how much I may disagree with, and absolutely HATE seeing someone burn Old Glory in protest, or hear them say nasty things about America, people are allowed to do so within their legal rights. Same with those who don’t support the Black Lives Matter movement for logical reasons.
I think most people forget that nowadays. People are allowed to have polar opposite opinions to yours. They’re allowed to like and support things that you don’t, no matter how much it angers you. If more people realized that, and truly respected that fact, we could begin to respect each other, appreciate our differences, find common ground, and heal our nation. Being proud of our national symbols and traditions is patriotic. As is speaking out against real injustices that plague our country. Both are patriotic. I am reminded from a quote, and I feel it sums up my attitude toward free speech: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
-Evelyn Beatrice Hall
Being legally able to burn the American flag as a form of protest is a relatively recent development in our country’s history, having only been around since 1989. Here’s an article that explains Texas v. Johnson, the case in question in greater detail. The decision to allow flag burning as a form of free speech was a hotly contested one in the United States Supreme Court, passing with a 5-4 vote. Justice Antonin Scalia was the deciding vote in the case. His reasoning behind it is summed up in a powerful quote:
“If it were up to me, I would put in jail every sandal-wearing, scruffy-bearded weirdo who burns the American flag. But I am not king.”
That quote by Antonin Scalia should serve as a reminder (and warning) to every American, that no one has the right to infringe on someone else’s freedom of speech to express a dissenting opinion. Cancel culture, media pressure, sanitizing history, and shouting down opposing opinions are all direct attacks on that unique, and most American right. When we allow someone or something to determine what can or cannot be said or expressed, we set a DANGEROUS precedent. We allow that person or entity more power and influence than they are due. The curbing of free speech becomes the start of tyranny. The very thing our Founding Fathers warned us about, and what they urged us to fight against. It’s where we currently are at in our country’s history. It ain’t pretty.
To exercise my right in free speech, I am going to say two things some may find controversial or offensive and explain my reasoning behind them: It is okay to not support Black Lives Matter, and it is okay (and legal) to fly the Confederate flag as long as it isn’t used to spread hate speech.
From my personal perspective, it seems as though society is attempting to force people to support Black Lives Matter, or else be branded as a racist, uncle Tom, or not “woke” enough. That is enough to make the rebellious side or Patriot in me be like, “Hell no. You are NOT going to tell me who I should support. I’ll decide that for myself, thank you very much. That is my right as an American!”
I would venture to say that most decent human beings already know black lives matter. The problem for me, is that there are enough, shall we say, less than decent people pushing the movement. And these kinds of people are not at all for justice and equality. They are for silencing opinions and worldviews they do not agree with. They are Anti-American anarchists. A vocal minority shoving their ideology down the throats of a silent majority who has yet to push back. Lord help BLM’s leaders if people eventually DO grow brave enough to push back against them!
I am all for learning new perspectives, supporting the black community, and listening to them in their fear, tough moments and sadness. But I am not for sacrificing my right to free speech as an American, just so some can hear what they want to hear: Their opinion coming out of MY mouth. My ancestors, and the original Patriots shed too much blood to allow me to sacrifice my free speech to appease people. Plus I am stubborn as a person. I will never be told what to think or believe. At the end of the day, that’s MY call and nobody else’s.
And I am also not for sacrificing someone’s ability to protest or express themselves in ways that society might find shocking or offensive. Including flying the Confederate flag. Do I support what the Confederacy stood for? Absolutely not. The South fought to preserve slavery by permanently splitting this nation in two.
But I also understand one thing: I am not a Southerner, and have not lived in that area of the United States for any length of time. I’m a Buckeye, born and raised. An Ohio boy. So my view of the Confederate flag might be different compared to how someone from, South Carolina, Georgia, or Florida views it. But their view of it is just as valid as mine is. Here is an interesting perspective on the Confederate flag from Ben Jones, who famously played Cooter the mechanic, on Dukes of Hazzard.
Even though I will likely always see the Confederate flag as a negative symbol, since I am from Ohio, I am open-minded enough to listen to Ben Jones’ take on it. And he makes a lot of sense to me. He flies that flag to express his pride in being from the Southern United States. It’s a cultural/family thing for him. He’s proud of being a Southerner while still being a proud American Patriot who hates racism as much as the next decent human being. Seems simple enough to me to understand.
Symbols such as that flag, mean different things to different people. And again, no group of people has the right to tell other groups how to perceive symbols. That goes against freedom of speech. I would argue telling people how to perceive things is even more sinister than violating the First Amendment. This seems like thought policing. Seems awfully close to how things are in the book 1984. I hope a society like that never becomes a reality. And if it does? I hope I’m dead and long gone by then.
But while I am still alive and breathing, I will always stand for freedom of speech. Even if I don’t agree with how some people exercise that right. For if we can’t have freedom of speech, it won’t be long before we’re in chains once our other freedoms are taken away. If the First Amendment ever goes, it will be the first domino to fall on the way to a totalitarian society. A frightening prospect. Stay awake, alert and vigilant, my fellow Patriots!