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Does Our Society Really Want Total Freedom?

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Ask any American if they value the First Amendment freedoms and most will reply in a flip way, without much thought behind it, "Sure, this is the ultimate right that must be protected at all costs." Then in the next breath people will cry, "Oh government officials, please save us from the First Amendment. We can't handle it."

What about any other country where there is freedom of speech? Do they also value what that entails or do they want to exercise caution? Should all forms of expression, speech, or other ideas be allowed or do we want total freedom to be curbed at the discretion of a few in charge? Is a nanny-state a worthwhile exchange to protect the few at the expense of the many?

Here is where the scary reality comes in the picture - people are different! Nothing is more frightening than the fact that there are people out there who do not share our values, beliefs, morals or anything else that forms our safe knit identity. Different is brushed off as somehow "evil" and something to fear. Xenophobia is a classic example. Immigrants come in from all parts of the world and a knee-jerk reaction is to put up your guard or else they may "taint" your familiar lifestyle with cultures and languages far different from your values.

In the US, many who claim they love the First Amendment stand behind it 100% when it comes to protecting their right to worship in whatever way they see fit, as long as it is in the mainstream. They want their speech not to be hindered when the topic is relatively safe and socially acceptable. It is when people dare to be different the ones who are afraid make things worse for everyone.

The moment something makes us feel uncomfortable, there is always someone trying to quash the other person's freedom. For instance, the First Amendment covers not only free speech [or the free expression, thereof], but free religion [as in the government shall impose no rule on it]. Some religionists have an agenda to make religion taught in public schools which goes too far because this would be a government imposing a religion on its people. Some atheist groups protest religious groups who want to pray or conduct Bible meetings on school grounds during recess which goes too far because this not only prohibits that group's right to free assembly and expression [on their own free time], but it would also be government imposing on their religious freedom.

France went to one extreme by banning all religious symbols from public schools which were considered a distraction to the education process. England recently reversed a decision which allowed a girl to go to a public school in the full Islamic headdress because it was an affront to her civil liberties and freedom of religious expression. Both decisions could lead to abuse of this freedom of expressions or lack thereof.

There are some serious scum bags in the world. There are a few web sites I have seen that promote some of the most vile things one can conceive. It is a fact that those who cry out loudest they need to protect society from such people that gives people like that more publicity. If someone says something or creates something that makes you feel uncomfortable, why on earth would you want to seek it out unless you like to get offended.

Fortunately for me, I have a strong stomach and a strong mind. People can say whatever they want, but that does not necessarily make it my reality nor affect me personally. "Sticks and stones" philosophy is the bottom line.

American culture has also become more victim oriented. Everyone is lawsuit happy. The slightest offense, real or imagined, can become a federal case. Everyone wants to play a victim as if it is society's responsibility to keep them safe and happy at all times. I see this same trend developing in some European areas. Life is not fair and if anyone was promised life would be fair, they were lied to. When we protect the most sensitive ears and eyes from something potentially offensive, we deprive the rights of others to think in a more broad way.

Books like "Tom Sawyer" and "Catcher In The Rye" have been banned in some schools in the United States. Most people who read those books will question what on earth could be so offensive in these books to save the children from reading these classic tales. Yet, these same people who fear such books are totally shocked that some will find books like the Bible offensive and to a certain degree pornographic. If we disallow any book that offends someone, there will be no books left to read.

I am sure this opinion so far is offending some people. Does this mean I don't have the right to write it? Even if I did not have the right to write what I thought does not prevent me from thinking what I am writing. As people are diverse, there will always be people thinking of something that will offend someone else, whether or not it is said, written or communicated in one form or another. Just because you prevent it from being aired does not prevent the thought from existing.

The fear most people have with the ultimate freedom of speech/press/religion factor is that all the so-called weirdos will come crawling out of the cracks and making them feel uncomfortable. My question to them is would you rather know what someone is thinking so if they are posing a real danger to yourself and your family you can prepare for it or do you prefer making assumptions that everyone is kind and good only to be sorely disappointed?

Our society can and should dictate legal and illegal actions and those who cross the line should be punished for breaking the law. However, talking about something and actually doing something are two different things. Watching a movie or television show or reading a book about a murder or a suicide does not mean that you will go on a shooting spree and off yourself. This is where personal responsibility comes into play. Either people have their own minds and can decide what is reality and what is fantasy or they should be locked away under 24 hour care with a shrink, nurse, maid, mommy, or jailor.

I have read some material that many people find offensive such as the Satanic Bible. Reading that book did not make me any more of a Satanist than did reading the Bible make me a Christian. Watching the movie "Faces of Death," did not make me a gore seeking fanatic who gets off on seeing dead bodies. A few web sites I ran into while collecting information had pictures that very graphically shown illegal acts ranging from murder to bad things one can do to animals did not make me want to stoop to that level of darkness.

The dark side of life is a very disturbing area. It is not pretty. But I would rather those who do participate in such things be allowed to say that they are involved in such things so I am in more of a position to proceed with caution. If you were to silence such ghouls, that does not make it go away. They will still exist. You just won't know who to avoid.

Take it a step further. If we did allow all things to be said the shock value would wear off. There are people who get a rise out of shocking and offending other people and people who love to be shocked and offended. The fact that they got so much attention the last time around gives them more reason to make it worse next time. If people just did not care, it would not thrive as much. After all, the bottom line in media is money. The more people who pay attention to the message, the more money is made. The more people who just don't care about something, the less money is made.

You cannot protect everyone. The way things are now, you must take off the blinders to a narrow minded view of life. There are so many ways to think of things and so many other people to consider. We do not have the luxury of intolerance, even if we have to tolerate the intolerant. They have the right to spout off nonsense for the rest of us to laugh at.

Wouldn't you rather know who all the extreme, radical, racists were than shutting them up altogether? What they say most rational people know is ignorant. Because they say it over and over as loudly as possible does not make what they say any more true. Look at them with a calm rational mind and you will just see them for the buffoons they are. Why deprive them of their right to make themselves look idiotic when what they say is not true? Again, "sticks and stones..."

Personally, I find Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell extremely offensive. I would never try to campaign to get them off the air unless they cross the line of political pandering (a religious organsation with tax-free status should never be allowed to play politics), but will always turn the channel when I see them. I wish those of the Christian right would figure out they have that same power when viewing something that offends them. Those Christians who burned their tv permits over the airing of the Jerry Springer Musical had every right to protest in such a manner, however what about the rights of others who may have wanted to watch that garbage on the telly? The remote control does come in handy for such occasions.

Either we can handle freedom of speech and what this expression entails or we must admit we are children in need of someone to tell us how to think, act, speak and what to say.