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The Importance Of Freedom Of Speech

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The Importance of Freedom of Speech

It is impossible to do a good job of reducing violence without an appreciation of Freedom of Speech. First of all, most violence in our society, including school, is verbal violence. People get angry over words they say to each other, enemies are made, and ongoing states of war are created. This is true in practically all relationship problems, whether between husband and wife, parent and child, teacher and student, brother and sister, and child and peer. A small percentage of violence is physical, but even the great majority of physical violence begins with anger over words. It is extremely rare for someone, out of the blue, to physically attack someone else without angry words being exchanged first. You will realize that virtually all fights begin with words. If kids knew how to deal with words without getting angry, there would be a lot less physical violence.

So what does this have to do with Freedom of Speech, one of the rights guaranteed by the US Constitution? Everything!

Throughout all of human history, people couldn’t just say whatever they felt like. Countless people have been tortured, crucified, burned at the stake, and killed in all kinds of horrible fashions for saying things against the “official” view. Many a bloody battle has been fought over things people said. Even today, most people in the world live in countries where it is dangerous to say what they really think.

When there is no Freedom of Speech, it is legitimate to be angry with people, to punish them, and even to destroy them for the things they say. But there is a problem with such a system. Everyone thinks his own view is the truth, but different people see things differently. Who, then is to be the ultimate authority over what can be said? The answer is that the people with the most power decide. In other words, whoever instills more terror in others gets to decide. This, of course, does not make people happy. It makes them hate the people in power, and it leads to violent outbreaks when the oppressed decide to rebel against their oppressors.

An excellent attempt at solving this problem came a few thousand years ago, when wise men got the idea of using God as the ultimate authority. After a few thousand years of experimentation with this approach, it was becoming apparent that it didn’t make things any better at all, because people were continuing their zealous killing -- in the name of God’s will! Even today, most wars are still fought in the name of religion.

And that’s where the wisest of all came in. A couple of hundred years ago, the authors of the United States Constitution did an absolutely brilliant thing: they guaranteed Freedom of Speech. Suddenly, we all became free to say what we want, without fear that somebody would hurt us for saying it. A quarter of a billion people in this country are living in remarkable harmony because we have to accept other people’s right to say what they want, just as they have to respect our right to say what we want.

Most of us have come to take Freedom of Speech for granted, like the air we breathe and the water we drink. The truth, though, is that Freedom of Speech is little more than a slogan for most people. We have never practiced it at home and in school. We continue to get mad at children and punish them for the things they say, not only to us, but to each other as well. And this freedom is being whittled away on a national level as well. It is becoming increasingly illegal to say what we want because others may be offended, and people in the public eye are having their careers destroyed because of jokes they made. We are supposed to develop a national character that gives us the strength to tolerate the words that others supposedly have the freedom to say. Instead, we are becoming a nation of crybabies who want the government to protect us from bad words, the same way children expect parents and teachers to protect them from name-callers.

Why is this happening, despite over two hundred years of having Freedom of Speech? Because our citizens have never been given a complete education as to what Freedom of Speech means? It is not enough to tell us we have Freedom of Speech? This does nothing to make us stop our biological reaction of getting scared, angry, and hateful towards people who say mean things to us. Why do we get scared, angry and hateful over words? Because it is a biological reaction that has developed over billions of years in conditions of Nature, where life is very dangerous, and animals eat each other for food and fight each other for dominance. Granting us Freedom of Speech a couple of hundred years ago has not changed our genetic program that tells us that others who threaten us are a real danger.

But now we live in Civilization, and we no



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