In these exceedingly try-ing times, people are voicing and expressing their anger by their words they use in public to denigrate others, to promote their personal views and so much more.
According to the Founders of the Constitution the 1st Amendment reads, “Con-gress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
When it comes to free speech one can’t help but wonder does the right to speak your mind include the right to use offensive language that could start a fight or incite a riot? What about using racial slurs or stereotyping people who have accents different than your particular accent? Various factions in our country do so and sometimes vent loudly.
Another question asked is Freedom of Speech the same as freedom of expres-sion, such that the right to condemn extends to offensive symbolic actions without any words, like burning the U.S. flag or kneeling during the National Anthem?
Then there is the right to publish scurrilous, defama-tory, and libelous material? If not, can the government prohibit the publication of such material before it goes to print? With all the stories by various people who do not think or act like us, you can cause much consternation in all of us.
.Then there are “Fighting Words.” Fighting words are words that inflict injury or have a “direct tendency to cause acts of violence by the person to whom, individually, the remark is addressed.” Generally, only the most inflammatory and derisive epithets will be characterized as fighting words.
How ironic that I have been assigned by La Prensa Texas to write a column on Free-dom of Speech. As a retired teacher, I majored in Speech and English at Texas Wes-leyan College in Fort Worth. (Now University) I even taught American History and Government in high school. We obviously discussed the Constitution.
In my Justice of the Peace Court Room, the Constitution was on the wall along with the Father of the Constitution, President James Madison, along with President Abe Lincoln and the Gettysburg Address, President Thomas Jefferson and the Declaration of independence.
Currently we see in America, political people of power seemingly abuse freedom of speech for their own ends. The rhetoric of political hate speech is escalating with devastating consequences drawing many people into the fray. The Freedom of Speech is causing unexpected consequences that the found-ing fathers never anticipated. Hopefully the intense “Free-dom of Speech” rhetoric will tone down and not destroy the fabric of our county. Only time will tell.
When I came home from Vietnam in 1971 I was greeted at the airport with other veterans with protest-ers screaming at us accusing us of being baby killers. I, along with my fellow soldiers looked at each other stunned and shocked at the venom in their voices. I was personally asked if I napalmed babies! I admit it was not what I expected.
I have come to realize there are positive and negative responses to “Freedom of Speech.” The great thing about having “Freedom of Speech” in our Constitution is we have the right to do so but know we can be held ac-countable for what we say. Despite the negativity this is still America!