Cancelling Freedom Of Speech

There is a growing trend in the world, specifically in the US, of attacking anything and everything different than ourselves and our beliefs. If someone says something that we disagree with, instead of saying, “well, that’s just their opinion”, we try to destroy and discredit them. Celebrities and powerful business people are the usual (and easiest) targets. The media calls it Cancel Culture when people use online vehicles for public shaming. I just call it wrong. But it isn’t only the rich and powerful who get shamed for their beliefs. It can, and does, happen to people from all walks of life.

The topic of politics is a great divider. It is a creator of enemies and, oftentimes, dangerous allies. Race is another powder keg that sets people on edge and can explode into disaster if not handled properly. Yes, of course, black lives matter. And yes, of course, white lives matter. And yes, of course, all lives matter. All of these things are true. Saying one of them does not invalidate the other two, but saying them at the right time is critical. Saying the right thing at the wrong time can spark anger or even violence. Picking and choosing our words is crucial to avoid unwanted conflict. But should it be that way? Are we really not allowed to say what we feel, solely because someone else may take it to be offensive?

Look, I am not looking for arguments here or to stoke the flames of the unrest in this world at the moment. I’m just thinking out loud here. Some topics are always going to be very sensitive. If someone is a Trump supporter, for example, that person likely has their reasons and doesn’t just blindly support him. They see something beneficial in the way he governs or the benefits they receive from his actions. Others, however, may not see any good him whatsoever. They may see nothing but hatred, racism, misogyny, arrogance, etc… Each side usually has several things they can point to that back up their views. Neither side is ever going to be fully convinced that the other side’s views have any validity. That’s just how things go. Arguing over politics rather than discussing it gets us nowhere but further apart from each other. Shouting at each other may make us louder, but it makes others listen to us less.

Race is a very sensitive subject. There is a huge movement here in the US, and also around the globe, where a group of people who feel they’ve been marginalized, overlooked and abused are standing up for what they believe in and making their voices heard. They are saying to the world, “Black lives matter.” That is a good thing, though I would change it to “Black lives matter too.” That would show that the intent is to feel recognized, but not to overshadow other races like some people feel is happening. Their lives absolutely do matter, as do all. But some of those who support that message are overstepping their bounds and are saying that their voices are far more important than any other voices. That’s not a path to equality by any means.

Saying blue lives matter is also a valid statement. That does not mean that black lives no longer matter. Cops are people too. Asian lives matter. Native American lives matter. Saying white lives matter is okay too, though it doesn’t really seem to be very helpful right now when others feel that they’ve been treated unfairly by white people in power. But it is by no means a racist, white-supremacist, ignorant or tone-deaf statement, despite what many people believe. It is simply unnecessary at this time, in my opinion. I can say, without hesitation, that not all white people are racists. Not all white people feel that their lives matter more than any other race’s. Not all white people have experienced white privilege, at least not to the extent that the media says it is happening. Not all white people are paid more than their black colleagues. I know and work with plenty of people who are not white and I have done so for over 20 years in the building where I work. Not once have I seen or even heard of anyone being treated unfairly solely based on race. Not once. We are all equally treated poorly.  🙂 Now that’s not to say it isn’t different in other places. It certainly is and those whose actions are based solely on someone else’s race needs to rethink their position.

Color does not define a person. Character does. It’s as simple as that. We should be helping to achieve equality. We should also not be made to feel guilty about the horrible actions of our ancestors who started this mess in the first place. I have never once treated anyone different because of their skin color. I have never once said that being white makes me more important than anyone else. I have never been rude to other races or ignored them when in need. So many people are apologizing for being white. Seriously? That’s absurd. There should be no shame OR pride taken in regards to your skin color. The luck of the draw determined that. You had no say in it. My skin color does not make me part of the problem, in the same way that black people should never have been made to feel inferior based on theirs. Anyone still guilty of perpetuating hate and bigotry needs to be corrected in the proper way. If we want to say that all lives matter, then we need to show it by helping those who are down or are mistreated and avoid looking for scapegoats. Placing blame fixes nothing. Making changes that benefit all people does. Canceling everything white is not the solution to issues of equality.

An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind” -Ghandi

People in the public spotlight have it a little tougher than the average person when it comes to receiving criticism. Their words and actions are made available for all the world to see and they are much easier targets for the wrath of the people. For example, when the CEO of Goya foods praised Trump as a leader, people lost their minds. They called for a boycott of all Goya products. I don’t know how many people actually stopped to think about the effect that would have on the workers of that company and the support that the Hispanic communities received from them. All they saw was someone supporting a president whom they despise. Hatred for Trump is one thing. People have every right to hate Trump if they so wish. They can point to his comments about Mexicans or other groups and say he’s a racist or a bigot. That’s fine. You are more than entitled to that opinion. But to try to destroy a company that does so much for those same people is unthinkable. It was one man’s personal opinion. This is what he said:

“We are all truly blessed to have a leader like President Trump who is a builder. That is what my grandfather did. He came to this country to build, to grow, to prosper. We have an incredible builder, and we pray. We pray for our leadership, our president.”

He made a comment about Trump’s ability to build and create jobs. Right or wrong, it was his own opinion. Is that enough to warrant the cancellation of an entire company and all those within it? Did he once say that he agreed with everything that Trump had ever said and done? No.

J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series of books, made headlines recently regarding comments she made about transgender people. She made these comments in response to an article she disagreed with. Again, these was her personal opinion. Once more, right or wrong, it was an opinion. People began to call for a boycott of all her work because they felt she was wrong. Was that right or is it possible to separate her personal feelings from her body of work that has given so much happiness to so many people?

This happens all the time in our society, where we say that one bad action negates every good one, and I simply cannot agree with that. There are always going to be those who say and do things we feel are wrong. Is it then our duty to destroy their lives? Would it not be more beneficial to everyone to educate those we see as ignorant? Saying that everyone has to agree on everything in every moment is not healthy or appropriate. Everyone has their own opinion based on many factors. I had my own beliefs that many disagreed with for a very long time based on my religious upbringing. With the proper education however, my views changed. But it took time and I had to be ready and willing to accept that change. People shouting at me, telling me that my fairytales were just a harmful delusion did not help their cause. Instead, it only made me dig my heels in deeper.

Teaching moments are all around us. Hateful division teaches us nothing, other than one side is always right and one side is always wrong. Where is the common ground?Comedian Ricky Gervais made some good points in regards to Cancel Culture. He said in an interview with British web magazine “Metro”…

“If it is choosing not to watch a comedian because you don’t like them, that’s everyone’s right. But when people are trying to get someone fired because they don’t like their opinion about something that’s nothing to do with their job, that’s what I call cancel culture and that’s not cool.”

“You turning off your own TV isn’t censorship. You trying to get other people to turn off their TV, because you don’t like something they’re watching, that’s different. Everyone’s allowed to call you an asshole, everyone’s allowed to stop watching your stuff, everyone’s allowed to burn your DVDs, but you shouldn’t have to go to court for saying a joke that someone didn’t like. And that’s what we get dangerously close to. If you don’t agree to someone’s right to say something you don’t agree with, you don’t agree with freedom of speech.”

“I did a tweet a month ago about freedom of speech, quoting Winston Churchill. Someone came back with, “You know he was a white supremacist?” And I wrote back, “Not in that tweet he isn’t.” It’s like if someone did something once that’s wrong, everything they did was wrong. You are allowed to have things in common with bad people as long it’s not the bad things. I’m a vegetarian and I love dogs, like Hitler. But the only thing I have in common with Hitler are the good bits!”

I guess the point of this post is this: Freedom of speech is not just a nice idea, it is of the utmost importance. Making everyone agree with you at all times is never a good thing. Try to find common ground in all situations, even if it’s hard to see from your side of the battle line you’ve drawn. If people like or support someone or something that you do not, ask questions and offer insight rather than spew venom with anger in your hearts. It’s okay to not always agree. It’s okay to see the good in people that others simply cannot see. There’s always some good in all people. We tend to only see the negatives when we dislike a person or group of people. Remember what Mr. Gervais said:

“You are allowed to have things in common with bad people as long it’s not the bad things.”

 

I am not looking for any debates or arguments here. I do not want to be drawn into political wars, race wars or any other wars. I am simply exercising my right of free speech to voice my opinion. I don’t normally do this, but for this post I will be disabling comments. You are all free to think what you like about my feelings on these subjects, but at this time I am not going to get into any back-and-forths with anyone. These views  are what they are. Feel free to disagree with them if you like. You certainly have that right to do so. I am, however, temporarily disabling the cancel button.   🙂