Wednesday, May 29, 2024
From My Front Porch

The first amendment assures the right to speak; it does not mean people have to agree with you


Some towns are currently in the middle of a political campaign. It is the constitutional right of each voter to be able discuss and discern the pros and cons of candidates or propositions like bond issues, and from this discernment, people determine how they wish to vote.

With any election, there is a great deal of commentary, which is spewed out by the public. Some of it is factual, some of it is created in such a way to slant facts to a certain side of a proposition, and other political diatribes are nothing more than downright misrepresentation or intentional lies. Because of our first amendment, all these forms of free speech may be uttered. It is unlawful and unwise to attempt to silence speech, even speech which is an outright lie. The founding fathers believed an educated populace should be able to listen to all viewpoints, cipher through the words and revelations, and conclude what is best because they had looked at all sides of an issue.

Unfortunately, with the advent of artificial intelligence and mass information delivery systems like social media and the web, false information is injected into political discussion and can be done in ways which can confuse and muddle the actual issues. It seems Americans are having a tougher time ascertaining what is true and what is a misrepresentation. They also seem to be unwilling to practice discernment.

Recently, I read a post on social media where a man asserted there must be a lot of “kickbacks” in the local school bond issue, because, in his experience, when so many people are working so hard to get something passed, there had to be kickbacks involved. Upon reading the man’s declaration, many immediately responded and asked what specific evidence the man had that supported such an assertion. People wanted to know who was receiving kickbacks and how the man knew such kickbacks existed. The man responded that such a situation had been his experience, and he had seen such “graft” happen before. When asked what specific examples he had of past elections where graft had taken place, the man did not, or could not, answer. He continued saying he wasn’t going to answer more questions because he felt like others were trampling his first amendment rights to speak what he believed. Herein lies the problem.

No one was trampling on the man’s right to express his opinion. He spoke his peace and did so just as anyone else who was on the social media platform. He was upset because when he was questioned to explain his position, he had little or no evidence or facts to support his beliefs. He stated, “Well, that is my view, and I am voting no because of it.” He sought shelter behind the first amendment, saying people were trying to muffle him, but the truth is he was upset because people did not adapt their positions and join him in thinking exactly the way he did. It made no difference to the man that he could not support his assertions, and when challenged, he failed to cite underlying persuasive facts which supported his views. He was upset because people did not think exactly like him. This was further evidenced when he proclaimed he was a “true” member of his party and those who did not agree with him were “fake” party members; and worse, members of the other party who were infiltrating the “good people” like him. It made no difference if someone viewed the world differently, if the assumptions which he based his opinion were false or inaccurate or were fabricated lies designed to unite people under a false pretense. He is certainly entitled to hold his beliefs, no matter how misguided others may think they are, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the community need blindly follow.

The first amendment is an important part of our way of life. Speaking out, standing up is part of the American spirit. Another important part of that American spirit is standing up and challenging someone who makes unsubstantiated allegations or false arguments and exposing those statements for the falsehoods they are. Everyone has a right to speak but it doesn’t mean everyone has to agree with you, and it certainly doesn’t mean if you don’t agree with the speaker, you are the enemy. Such are the thoughts of little minds. Such thoughts are not based on actual civil discussion, but rather on control and power and those who blindly seek it.

Thought for the day: “Everyone is in favor of free speech. Hardly a day passes without its being extolled, but some people’s idea of it is that they are free to say what they like, but if anyone says anything back, that is an outrage.”

-Winston Churchill

Until next time…I will keep ridin’ the storm out.