Free Considerate Speech

Free Considerate Speech

Photo courtesy of genius.com
Photo courtesy of genius.com

WEST LONG BRANCH, NJ- I would consider myself a strong advocate for free speech, and I am proud to live in a country where the public is able to voice its opinions without getting punished for them. I will, however, say that people have in recent years taken advantage of free speech, and used it in appalling ways.

No, I am not talking about the 14-year-old boy from Pennsylvania who is facing two years in prison for simulating oral sex on a statue of Jesus. Give the kid a break.  I am talking about all of the disrespectful things people do that jeopardize the freedom of speech we all work so hard to protect.

I recently saw a post on my Facebook timeline that read, “If the drawings are provoking other people, then maybe you should stop drawing them.” The girl who posted the status was my best friend in elementary school. Someone else commented on her post, and she appeared on my timeline. I haven’t heard from her in years. In fact, I haven’t talked to her since the third grade when I told her I didn’t like the picture of the clown on her lunch box, which of course terminated that friendship. I’m not sure which drawings she was referring to, but I can completely relate to her feelings.

Photo courtesy of www.wsj.com
Photo courtesy of www.wsj.com

My 4-year-old cousins are constantly making me drawings, and they are infuriating. They make these unrealistic drawings of a unicorn with a sock covering its alicorn, simply to mock the creature.They are completely and utterly disrespectful, not to mention improbable. Unicorns would never have socks on their horns. It’s a profane representation of an animal we all know and love. Sure, there is no actual evidence of unicorns existing, but I did read a book once about these magical creatures, so that makes it real, right?
Kids do all kinds of disrespectful things. A 9-year-old boy from Texas went to school with a magical ring of invisibility, and told his classmates that he would make them disappear. He had just finished watching Lord of the Rings and thought it would be fun to bring his own imaginary ring to school. Well, it’s not. The children were frightened, and so were the adults. Ultimately, the boy was expelled. Hopefully now he finds time doing what normal kids his age do – play World of Warcraft. But no imaginary rings, and definitely no drawings.
Kids these days amaze me. They think they can say whatever they want without consequences. Well, they can’t. Especially not if they go to Michigan University. This school has done exactly what all other schools should do; invested $16,000 on an ‘Inclusive Language Campaign’ to stop students from using words like ‘crazy,’ ‘gay’ and ‘ghetto’. What better way to spend $16,000, than launching a campaign telling people what they can’t say. I sure can’t think of one. I am, however, still wondering how words like “YOLO”, “guap” and “amazeballs” were left off that list.
Now this is not to say that all of the blame should be placed on the children. The parents most certainly hold some responsibility. A 4-year-old boy was expelled from preschool last year, because his mom posted a status on Facebook about how she would constantly find new things about his school she did not like. The pre-school called the mom and her son into the principal’s office where they were both expelled.
Photo courtesy of therightangle.co
Photo courtesy of therightangle.co

Honestly though, what did she expect? Did she think Facebook was some kind of public forum enabling adults to say whatever they want, whenever they want to? The letter of dismissal to the mother said that she used social media to question the integrity and intelligence of the staff, and that this was consistent with the “sowing discord” which is spoken of in the handbook she signed. This brings up two excellent points.
First, yes the integrity and intelligence of the school is indeed questioned, but what about the intelligence of the mother? She made her Facebook profile private, then tags the school in her post. They can see that, you know! Rookie mistake. Second; the handbook. How do you not consult your son’s school handbook before updating your Facebook status? Shame on her.

Maybe the real problem isn’t with the people. Maybe the problem is with society. Maybe the problem is with the fact that we have to make handbooks about what people should do, and run campaigns about what people can’t say. What if you have kids in two different schools and their handbooks conflict with each other? Or, what if you are part of the ‘Inclusive Language Campaign’ and you forget which words are acceptable, and which words aren’t? Is there a handbook on how to handle situations like these?

We are too busy living our own lives to worry about what really matters; what might offend the people around us. The solution is obvious; we all need to stop what we are doing. No more drawings, no more imaginary rings, no more Facebook. If the drawings are provoking people, don’t draw them. If the Facebook post might insult people, don’t post it. If the imaginary ring could scare people, stop imagining. If you don’t like the lunch box, keep your mouth shut.

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