Over the last week or so, I keep hearing about this concept of free speech and how everyone has a right to say whatever they want without being castigated for it. I’ve written about freedom of speech for many years, and I decided to share my thoughts about it here; stick with me for a few minutes.

by Bruce Emmerling
from Pixabay

In the United States, everyone has the right to express their opinion. What everyone doesn’t have a right to do is state their opinion and not have someone else disagree with it if they choose to. It’s the reason why so many people can love the movie Frozen (count me in) and a few can say they think it’s overrated. It’s the reason why so many young girls love Justin Bieber to the end of the world and others hate his guts (I don’t have an opinion either way).

What everyone has to realize is that if you’re strong enough to stand behind your convictions, say whatever you want to say and deal with whatever the consequences might be later on. If your opinions keep you from getting a job later on because they’re counter to what that particular employer wants to deal with, so be it.

Sorry, but that’s not the same thing as discrimination, where you don’t hire someone for what they are. No one asked to be black or female or gay or disabled or bald or heavy or… name something. Yet all of us understand how discrimination works; we didn’t get the job for what we are, not what we said; you had a choice, so if you blew it own up to it.

When any of us decides to say whatever we want to say, if it’s going to irk someone where it could impact your life or some of the people who consider you a friend… that’s just how it goes.

I take stands on things all the time, but I try to word my missives in a way that they’re not specifically insulting to anyone. If they take offense I’m ready to deal with it. I don’t have masses of people hating on me because I’m not stupid. I do have some who might decide not to follow me on social media anymore; I do the same thing all the time.

Here’s a bit of family history to share with you. My grandfather was a registered Republican for a major part of his life. He never voted for a single Republican, ever. He owned an auto repair shop in a Republican city and knew he’d never get any business if he’d registered as a Democrat. So he did what he had to do to survive, kept his mouth shut even amongst his friends, and voted his conscience. He wasn’t ready to be controversial until he shut down his business, and no one was the wiser until he had nothing to worry about. Freedom of speech? In his day, even with the Constitution? That and being black? Please!

by Betty Martin from Pixabay

Freedom of speech is a legal reality; freedom of consequences is a true reality. If you’re big enough or brave enough or important enough or passionate enough or stupid enough, some of those freedom of speech things you want to proclaim can come back to hurt you. I know someone who literally changed her name and waited a year for it to sink in so she could start applying for jobs under that name, in hopes that her political views under her other name would become obscure, as she is a liberal fireball but lives in a conservative area. How many of you would want to go through something like that?

Don’t be too timid to have an opinion but also don’t be naive. We all know when we’re about to say something on purpose that someone else might not like (sorry to y’all who keep proclaiming “all lives matter”, then following it up with “I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings about black lives mattering” or some falderal; you knew what you were saying unless you’re an idiot). If you don’t want to deal with the potential heat then don’t say it.

If you can deal with it and the pressure, and you’ve thought about your future and relationships, then go ahead and say what you want to say; you have freedom of speech via the 1st Amendment after all… just like those who might disagree with you. Stop crying because you feel you’re being picked on. Be smart or block; it’s really that simple. If that’s not what you want to do, you have the freedom to do that as well.

All of that is the preamble to answering the statement in the title; let’s talk about your willful ignorance for a bit.

You’re against people rioting; that makes sense because no one likes rioters.

You’re against people who don’t stand up and put their hands over their hearts when the Stars Spangled Banner starts playing (which is most of you; I’ve been to a lot of sporting events) and the flag is unfurled because you think you’re superior by standing while the flag’s being raised; you enjoy that.

You think saying something in support on Instagram while posting a picture of yourself in a swimsuit posing for a glamour shot makes everything all right; you’re kidding yourself.

You think saying you support the Black Lives Matter movement but you don’t like… whatever… and should be able to say it because of your right to freedom of speech… I talked about that above; you deserve everything you get.

The problem isn’t your freedom of speech rights; the problem is your willful ignorance at the present time. Black Lives Matter has never been about being dishonorable to the flag; that’s pure idiocy. When Colin Kaepernick started kneeling when the flag was unfurled, it was a marine who told him it was the way to show honor to those in the military while protesting the killing of so many unarmed men.

That’s what Drew Brees didn’t know and should have learned from his family members, but didn’t; maybe it would have helped if he’d talked about someone who’d been in the military one generation before or even someone in his own generation instead of bringing up the legacy of his grandparents; it’s possible he might have learned something that privilege helped keep him from.

Your cries of “All Lives Matter” might make you feel well meaning like a 60’s hippie, but all you did was co-opt a phrase that didn’t apply to you and make the topic all about you instead of the oppression of others. It made you feel good until people started piling on you for being heartless and stupid; how did that feel? Try being black in America; you feel like that all the time without saying anything and without it being true.

That’s what Ellen Degeneres did, though I don’t totally blame her for it. Ellen came out in support of the Black Lives Matter mantra, but equated her struggles as a lesbian woman with the struggles of black people getting killed by the police; definitely not the time for it because the two issues in this case aren’t anywhere close to each other. If we’re talking discrimination we are, but talking about murder by law enforcement… not in this country.

If those aren’t enough to prove my point, look at the case of CrossFit founder Greg Glassman, who decided it would be funny to make fun of both the death of George Floyd and the Covid-19 virus we’re dealing with and is finding his company’s franchisee’s dropping like dead flies. Of course the apology came, but it was too late. Sometimes that’s what happens when you’re in the wrong position and disposition to be willfully ignorant.

Maybe this image will help with the message I’m trying to get across:

It’s not always about what people say, but when they say it. Right now in America it’s all about the killing of a black man by police, another black man who was hunted down by yahoos while the police left them alone for 3 months knowing what they did, and the killing of a black woman whose only sin was being in her own house when the police stormed in trying to arrest a man who was already sitting in jail.

For the first time I can remember, it’s inflamed more white people one could possibly imagine. Your willful ignorance isn’t just having fun with black people and getting away with it as usual; this time they’re mad and not taking it anymore.

They’re not here for your jokes, your disrespect, your privilege, you’re petty narcissism… they’re out for positive change and they see what black people and other minorities have seen for the longest time; if you’re not part of the solution you’re part of the problem. For once, black people really do have a lot of white support, and it’s coming from all around the world.

If you’re missing all of what’s going on and you’re on the wrong side of the curve, I pity you because you’re going to be called out by other white people. You’re probably not used to it but it’s a new day and time and I’m all for it. No more double standards like what’s coming from Laura Ingraham; no more racist perspectives from people like Tucker Carlson.

If you’re ready to be called out on your perspective, more power to you. But stop your whining if you’re on the wrong side of both history and intolerance this time around. You’ve got your freedom of speech, but so does everyone else. If you’re willing to lose your job, your friends, your privacy and your self respect, please continue being stupid.

With that said, I’ve had to modify this article a bit as well as the title; this is what happens when you put something out and then learn a new perspective. The original title had a common phrase that, it turns out, specific people with a specific disability had a problem with.

I had no clue, and at first I was angry, feeling that once again my perspective had been co-opted by someone with a different agenda. Then I realized, like most of you should, that even when it’s about “me”, as in people like me, that doesn’t mean that others don’t count when it’s them, as in “them” specifically. In the long run, that’s more proof that all of us need to work together and learn from each other, otherwise the perpetuation of certain words and beliefs will continue.

It’s proof that we all have lessons to learn, and hopefully we’ll take a different path. However, if you feel you deserve the right to say what you want but don’t want to deal with the consequences, just shut up and get out of the way. I have the briefest hope that things are ready to change; I hope I’m not disappointed again like every other time. As stated in the lyrics of one of my favorite Sam Cooke songs:

There have been times that I thought I couldn’t last for long
But now I think I’m able to carry on
It’s been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change is gonna come, oh yes it will


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