Do Not Apologize for Free Speech!

Yes, I know that some stupid and poorly made video has been used as a lame excuse for a lot of people in the Middle East who are rioting and killing people. What has been the response of the President of the United States, land of the Bill of Rights? To essentially apologize for the video and to insist that “those who love freedom for themselves must ask how much they are willing to tolerate freedom for others.” And yet, he is still a serious contender for re-election. WTF?

No, seriously, what the f—? How is it that Romney gets widely criticized for his “47%” comments, and President Obama gets a almost no backlash over his comments about the stupid anti-Mohammad video? How is it that Obama is still polling around 45 to 50%? Yes, I know, Romney is not a great candidate. I do not like Romney either. But we have a President basically apologizing for freedom of speech and laying rhetorical groundwork for censorship, and people still want him to be President.

Protection of free speech should never, never, never, never, never be treated as something for which the U.S. needs to apologize. Not ever. The problem does not lie with the First Amendment. The problem, in this situation, is the rioting and murder. The people engaging in that behavior have only themselves to blame. No one made them do it. They chose to do it. And they should be soundly condemned for their actions in certain and clear terms. They should be mocked for behaving like violent children who have so little honor, mental fortitude and spiritual maturity that they apparently cannot handle being offended in an adult manner.

Aww. Someone offended your religious beliefs. Welcome to the world! This is what happens in the 21st century. Stop throwing a violent hissy fit, put your long pants on, and start acting like you have the capacity to advance beyond mental maturity of a three-year-old.

No, I am not condemning all Muslims. I know most of them are not rioting and killing people. This is not about religion. This is about a segment of the world’s population who thinks the solution to being offended is to violently demand the silence/death of the offender.

The saddest part of this, after the fact that people were killed, is that the President of the United States of America apparently sees this situation as a good time to call on people, in a U.N. speech, to “ask how much they are willing to tolerate freedom for others.” Granted, he couches this in the middle of a lot of other pro-free speech rhetoric, but he undermines all of that with that one sentence: “In every culture, those who love freedom for themselves must ask themselves how much they’re willing to tolerate freedom for others.” No, they do not. But the POTUS, he likes using that word, must.

“Now, I have made it clear that the United States government had nothing to do with this video,” he went on to say, “and I believe its message must be rejected by all who respect our common humanity.” I have not seen the video, but from what I have read about it, the message of the video seems to be that Islam is a foolish religion. I do not believe it is any more or less foolish than Christianity or Judaism (this is not to say I think these three religions are all equally true, but that is a topic for another day), or most of the other world’s religions. That said, and noting that I am a Christian, why must an atheist who respects our common humanity reject a message that any religion is foolish?

How about this instead: What freedom loving people should do is reject the idea that everyone has to agree or support or condemn the same things for freedom to work. The trick is not to see how we can make people all agree. The trick is that the answer to speech with which we do not agree is more of our own speech. Not violence. Not government rules. Not hate speech laws. Not riots. More speech and more speech and more speech still. That is what the President should be saying. But he is not.

He is trying to tell the world what to think:

The future must not belong to those who target Coptic Christians in Egypt. It must be claimed by those in Tahrir Square who chanted, “Muslims, Christians, we are one.” The future must not belong to those who bully women. It must be shaped by girls who go to school and those who stand for a world where our daughters can live their dreams just like our sons.

The future must not belong to those corrupt few who steal a country’s resources. It must be won by the students and entrepreneurs, the workers and business owners who seek a broader prosperity for all people. Those are the women and men that America stands with. There’s is the vision we will support.

The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam. But to be credible, those who condemn that slander must also condemn the hate we see in the images of Jesus Christ that are desecrated or churches that are destroyed, or the Holocaust that is denied.

See, there he goes again, “must … must … must”. Again, any support he might have claimed for free speech he undermines by trying to lecture people about what ideas must supported and which ideas must be condemned.

I know. My own bias against President Obama is coloring my perception of his remarks. Even so, I am surprised by the lack of a backlash against the President for his comments about the video and the violence in the Middle East. Let me put this another way. If President Bush the Younger had made the same remarks that President Obama has made, I would expect Bush to have been largely condemned in the public arena for not being more supportive of free speech.

What I would prefer to have seen the President say about the video, the rioting and the murder is something more like this:
We here in the United States are not to blame for the violent riots and murder that has recently occurred in the Middle East in the name of protest against a video made by private citizens of this country. We believe free speech is a fundamental human right, and the protection of that right is enshrined in the Bill of Rights, a part of the highest legal document of the land. While the content of the video may be offensive to some, the United States is proud of its protection for free speech, and we will not apologize for it. To those who are offended by the video, I say you have a choice to make. You can react shamefully with violence and a lack of honorable behavior, or you can show yourselves as honorable people with ideas that belong in the world’s market place of thought. Any choice to react with violence and murder is entirely your own, and is rightfully condemned as entirely wrong and inexcusable. Let those with true honor and strength come forward and respond as honorable people should to offensive speech, with more speech of your own. Now is the opportunity before you to build up your reputation in the world, or to destroy it. The choice is yours.

But President Obama has not said anything like that. Neither has Romney. They both suck rotten eggs. And thank God I live in a country where I can say that. Free speech is a feature of our society, not a drawback. We should promote it as such, not apologize for it.

One Response to “Do Not Apologize for Free Speech!”

  1. Bravo, I love this country!! There is no other place in the world I would rather live. Thank God we can vote or NOT vote for our next president. Wish we had more candidates with more honor, character, and someone who remembers our past and how far we have come and how far we have yet still to go. Maybe our children will give us better candidates worthy of our vote and support. We must never give up hope. Great comments.

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