7 Thoughts on Free Speech

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By Hirsh Sisodia

Our thanks to the brave and dedicated writers who took on the more-relevant-than-ever topic of free speech this summer! Here are 7 powerful, incisive exercises in just that:

On people’s disgust with flag burning…

“A protester burns the flag in order to demonstrate that they have lost all faith in our country…the idea that someone could feel that way about our country is supposed to be shocking. It’s supposed to be unpleasant. It’s supposed to be offensive. This is the very reason we need to protect it.” – Riley Lewers

On unlikely and crucial understandings…

“Instead of an acrimonious end to the newfound accord, he acknowledged his disrespectful conduct and actually apologized…he folded up his sign, handed it over, and just walked away. Some in the crowd laughed and cheered at his departure. They saw a vanquished enemy staggering off in defeat, but I had seen something entirely different. I knew that the interaction I was just witness to was extraordinary and important and represented exactly what we all need right now.” – Ryan Donahue

On Seth Meyers’ clever subversion of political correctness…

“Seth does appear to genuinely agree that it would be inappropriate for him to deliver some jokes, while it may be appropriate for a gay or black woman to deliver those same jokes. This is not a chilling effect at work here, stifling a comedian’s creative expression; rather, Seth and his staff are able to consider how race, gender, and sexual orientation factor into the comedian’s positionality, and how that calculation affects the shape, impact, and appropriateness of a certain joke.” – Nick Abbott

On colleges’ responsibility to controversy…

“While it’s okay for colleges to have guidelines for what isn’t allowed in speeches, to be safe spaces, to condemn free speech, and to push away extremism and radical views, in shutting down speakers and modifying curriculums to account for controversy, colleges only move education processes backwards. Controversy is ultimately necessary to push our thinking process forward.” – Ananya Kalahasti

On avoiding the violent implications of protest…

“In Berkeley’s case, the campus endured thousands of dollars of damages, and surely people were hurt mentally, if not physically, due to the protesters actions. To be crystal clear: People should be able to speak their minds freely, and if they have an idea that even some see as immoral or detestable, they should be dissuaded from their beliefs by argumentation and debate. On the other side of the coin, we should strive to keep people safe…It’s time for people to wake up, and realize that adults do not “fight” bad ideas with violence.” – William “Alex” Schramkowski

On important, small steps in an era of big money…

“The verdict reached in Citizen’s United does not protect the speech of individual Americans. It merely diminishes the effectiveness of individual opinions and the ideological solvency of the federal government in favor of strengthening the influence of corporatocracy in the United States. Our freedoms are not quantifiable.  Our voices are. Banded together, our voices are more powerful than the money and influence of corporate America and political special interests because our democracy allows the people to hold their representatives accountable.” – Brandon Stanaway

On rejecting the role of bystander…

“In today's America, it's crucial that we act as the voices of those typically underrepresented in history: the immigrants, the non-binary, those who have been discriminated against throughout the ages. We cannot be bystanders to historical oppression, just as we cannot forget the fact that history is multi-dimensional. The diversity of perspectives and voices is what allows us to make ethical decisions today--decisions that ultimately take into account the needs of each individual, people, and nation.” – Valerie Wu

 

We would like to thank everyone who contributed to our Summer Series! To learn more about our fantastic writers, click here: https://eplur.org/regular-contributors-1/

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