I wrote this piece in fall 2010 in response to a long-time friend who ‘defriended’ me on Facebook. The language and references are that of Facebook, but I think it can be applied across any medium.
Freedom To Be Offended
Everyone has made their fair share of comments on the happenings in the world we live in today in a hodge-podge of status updates, links, likes and comments. Hiding one friend who disagrees with us, while putting a different one more prominently in your news feed. It happens every day and a lot of the time it is done silently and no one is the wiser for it. Sometimes you have friends who tell you what they think in the face of it being unpopular or hurting your feelings and that action is something to encourage.
I am a vocal person in what I believe in or disbelieve, whichever best fits, but at the end of the day the opinions put forth are just that – opinions. They are not condemnations of any one given individual and often the point is lost in translation in a medium where you cannot tell tone or see the person’s face. If offense is taken here or there, that is part of an overall point I have been making for months now and that is that we have the freedom to voice our opinions and the choice of what we wish to read or do not wish to read. Just because you don’t like something or are offended by it does not make it something you can summarily ‘ban’ or attach any of the given labels of extremist, racist, violent, bigot or radical that seem to be all the rage these days. Those are the tools of political correctness and that my friend, is censorship.
I could so some ‘hemming’ and ‘hawing’, some hand wringing and apologizing for things that I have said or positions I have taken, but I am not going to do that. Everyone has the right to be offended (or encouraged) by any given thing that I have posted or said. The person I am is not defined by the text on this site or by a comment box. If you know me, then you know I am not of malicious or hateful intent and there is a reason or event behind any given assertion that I have made. Asking me about it is the only way to move forward. Discussion is the only means we have of effecting change and understanding.
If you have been paying attention, the overall tone on my page has been one of saying what you think, even if it is deemed unpopular or politically incorrect. To me, political correctness is a cancer that has strangled this nation and has reached its height in the last decade. There is no moral high ground to be gained from shouting down someone for honestly stating what they believe. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Liberty is lost when silence is extracted through such means. Our Constitution protects our right to Freedom of Expression; to our Freedom of Speech. It applies to things you may not like to read or hear, but it does apply. They have every right to say it, just as you have every right to complain about them doing so. Flat out -Don’t like it? Then don’t listen. Don’t look. If you do listen and look, recognize in doing so you are exercising that same Freedom that they are.
That the freedom we enjoy of being able to express ourselves is a two-way street, rife with the possibility of reaching agreement but equally filled with the pitfalls and likelihood of coming away offended. If one chooses not to go up that street, that is their choice, but dismissing the option leaves only silence. The choice is still there for whichever way you may decide to roll and that is something both sides of the road need to agree to respect …or respectfully disagree. The choice is yours.