It has been said before that the United States is an exceptional place, that in America one will find freedoms and privileges not found in other places.
This statement is completely true. This week is marked as Free Speech Week. It takes place every year during the third week of October. As I observe Free Speech Week, I find myself sitting and thinking about our First Amendment.
As we all know, the First Amendment guarantees five basic freedoms – free speech, freedom of religion, a free press, the freedom to assemble peacefully, and the freedom of petition. Our government is restricted from denying us these freedoms by our Constitution. The Founders ensured that when they created the United States of America.
Two-hundred forty-three years and counting – that is how long this part of the planet has been free from tyranny. Americans are an exceptional group. Those who had the privilege of being born here were born into these rights endowed by our Creator and guaranteed by the Founders. Others who were not born here, make their way here for the freedoms we enjoy. Myself and so many others volunteered portions of our lives to defend those freedoms.
We have seen and heard debates in this country about whether or not these freedoms should be regulated. Take the freedom of speech for example. You can criticize the government without fear of repercussion. You can engage in heated debates online or in person without fear of legal consequence. The same does not apply for private establishments and platforms, but I digress.
Winston Churchill once said, “where there is great power there is great responsibility.” We Americans are unique, because our ability to speak freely, protest freely and petition freely gives us power. We have the power to enact change. We have the power to stand up when we have grievances with our government. That power does come with great responsibility.
We are responsible for ensuring that we never lose these freedoms. We have already seen examples of our president attacking the press in America by calling us “the enemy of the people.” While we have seen blatant examples of dishonesty from national media who lust for ratings and clicks, those words from President Trump are both irresponsible and dangerous. He has gone so far as introducing the concept of state-run media in America. If you want to see just how great the idea of state-run media sounds, look no further than places like China, North Korea, and Russia.
Another freedom that deserves responsibility is our freedom of speech. I am going to say this, and I hope those reading this will read very carefully: having freedom of speech only means you are free of repercussions from the government. This does not pertain to social media platforms or places of employment.
So many times, I have seen someone lose their job for irresponsibly saying or doing something racist, sexist, or homophobic. They have lost their jobs and even friendships over these words. I’ve seen people complain about being banned over a tweet or a Facebook post. Employers hold employees to a certain standard, and social media platforms expect their users to adhere to a certain standard.
Simply having the freedom to say something, or express yourself in a certain way, doesn’t necessarily mean you should do it. Things in this country could be so much smoother if everyone just minded their own business. If you don’t like the idea of a pride parade, don’t go to the parade. If you don’t like a movie or television show because it celebrates a certain theme, don’t watch it. It’s one thing to express your worldview, but doing it detrimentally is not necessary.
As we enjoy our freedom this week and every other week of the year, we should think about how we can use this freedom responsibly. This is the best way to make America great.