Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Responsible Speech

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Our Constitution guarantees the citizenry certain rights, many of which are outlined in the first ten Amendments, also known as the Bill of Rights - and I am a fan of those rights, including the Second Amendment - because I feel that a well organized government militia should have the right to keep and bear arms.  But with each of the rights outlined in the Bill of Rights also comes a certain degree of care and responsibility.

Obviously, freedom of speech does not give a person the right to yell "fire" in a crowded auditorium if there is no fire, and hate speech designed solely to instigate one group of individuals to target or harm another group of individuals does not, to me at least, seem to be representative of what James Madison and the others who contributed to the great document had in mind when they were putting quill to parchment to codify their lofty ideals.

Two recent incidents of incendiary speech were cited in this space last week.  One had to do with Congressman Allen West of Florida who told an outrageous lie with nothing to back it up.  West claimed that over eighty Democratic members of Congress are communists.  Instead of apologizing for his lapse of sanity and political decency, he immediately doubled down on the remark and sent out requests for campaign contributions based on his crazy remarks.  What he said wasn't true, West knew it wasn't true, and yet he waved the comments like a flag and wanted to be rewarded for his dishonesty.

The other incident was from Ted Nugent, an aging rocker who calls himself "The Motor City Mad Man."  Nugent, long a board member of the National Rifle Association and avid "sportsman" (who was recently cited for bagging a bear illegally in Alaska) went nuts at the NRA convention is St. Louis and made very offensive remarks involving President Obama and the dangers that he posed for the republic if he happened to get re-elected.  Nugent's comments were so offensive and over-the-top that he got a special visit from the Secret Service so that he could tell them how he really felt.

(By the way, Teddy, it won't be a "sport" until the animals are armed.)

Yesterday word came that Mr. Nugent will suffer some consequences for his bitter attack on the President.  Ft. Knox, a large Army base in Kentucky, has cancelled a June 23 appearance of Ted Nugent at a show on post.  The other two classic rock acts, REO Speedwagon and Styx, will still perform as scheduled.  Ted had a "right" to rant about the Commander in Chief, and the Army had a right to cancel his performance.  With freedom comes responsibility.

Today DailyKos is reporting the Allen West has also had an appearance cancelled for his McCathyesque lie about the eighty Democrats in Congress.   The local NAACP had invited West to speak at their Freedom Fund Banquet in Martin County, Florida.   Today, four days prior to the event, West was uninvited.  Allen West may have felt that he had some constitutionally-protected right to tell a whopping falsehood, but the local NAACP also had a right to show their displeasure with his total disregard for truth by jerking his invitation to speak at their gathering at the Palm City Country Club.  With freedom comes responsibility.

The lies have been flying fast and furious this year, and the situation will undoubtedly get worse as the election nears because both sides view this election as a fight for America's soul.  People will be voting who don't like blacks, don't like Mormons, don't  like Muslims, don't like Mexicans, don't like guns, don't like people who don't like guns, don't like rich people, don't like the poor, don't like paying taxes, don't like laws, don't like unions, don't like Wal-Mart, and don't like God knows what.  It is going to be a very negative election and lots of stuff will be said and printed that has no basis in fact whatsoever.  Instead of getting mad when we get some provocative email, it will be our responsibility to check the facts and correct the errors - or lies, and then spread the truth.

And if that gets Allen West to calling us communists, so be it.  We'll be in good company with at least eighty progressive members of Congress.

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