We walk a tight rope when it comes to the first amendment. One must balance the ability to say anything with the responsibility of saying anything. I am thankful we live in a country where our government cannot penalize its citizens for its speech. However, society may do with the speech giver as it wishes. I always remind folks you have the freedom of speech but not the freedom of consequences.
Every one of us has a responsibility for what we say. Some of us have bigger platforms but we all have a voice and people listen to it. As an average twenty something male I recognize I have a responsibility with my speech.
I have two younger sisters that are affected by the things I say. I have a reputation that I wish to hold intact. I have friends and family members I have a responsibility to. I also have my employer and coworkers to consider when I make my thoughts public. Lastly, my speech, on a small scale, affects society. At this point some of you are rolling your eyes. But think about it. The above people mentioned are my world. I socialize with these folks on an everyday basis. For better or worse, they affect me and I affect them. In turn those folks go home to their family, coworkers, and friends and they affect them. People change people. This is why society is an ever evolving collection of ideas and norms. It’s quite astounding if you think about it. You where ever you are in some small way are affecting someone you don’t know half way around the world. Our interconnectedness is often astonishing. And we are lucky enough to live in a time when all of it is recorded and put on the internet. While I hate internet fad videos, it’s a perfect example.
I believe this illustrates my point about the responsibility we have with our words and speech. I love social commentary. I see myself as a social observer. I then write how I see the world. Some of today’s TV shows are a great source of social thought provocation. Criminal Minds had an episode from 2012 where a politician was speaking hateful rhetoric. He was campaigning on the notion that crime is committed only by nonwhite folks. This fueled a deranged man’s murderous plot to stage the murders of upper middle class white families preformed at the hand of minorities. I get it. It’s a TV show.
However, put it into perspective. Two and a half weeks ago a white man opened fire on nine innocent black folks who were worshiping God. One of the most people acts a person can commit and they were hunted like animals. Its alleged that the murder was involved in several white supremacy groups or at least believed their ugly beliefs. As I watched this episode this was all I could think of. Those poor folks are victims of a sick twisted individual that was indoctrinated by evil vicious thoughts. I soon thought about the responsibility we all have for our words and to each other. Whether you like it or not you are an example to someone. You change someone and they change you. People change people.
Once we realize this we can work together to become more cautious with our words and thoughts. In no way am I affirming we do not have a right to say what we want but only reminding ourselves that we have a responsibility for what we say as well. May we use our words to build up rather than tear down.
This In Itself Is Humbling.