There is a topic that has continuously baffled and perplexed me. An issue that has divided people from all across the world and has separated extremists from the few neutrals of this world. And that is the freedom of speech.
I’ve come to learn that even as an introverted and shy child, there was always a rebellious nature within me. The kind of nature that gets so disagreeable that it has to make itself known, and from this inner nature spouts the output known as an “opinion,” a word I’ve often used when my inner nature cannot withdraw itself any longer and must be released to give me comfort.
That’s right, I’m opinionated. I always have the urge to seek freedom, whether in thought or speech. I ask questions because I want answers. And curiosity has always been the reason for my love of science and inquiry. It fuels me and excites me; it boosts my ego and it produces other things that I love, debate and controversy. I love the flow of thoughts and ideas in a community, and the feeling of searching for an answer as a team is something that I’m passionate about. It reminds me that as humans we are always searching for answers to understand each other more. Freedom is essential for humans to survive and is law, both with God and our government.
But why am I repulsed by it now?
I’m repulsed by the fact people use free speech to tear each other down. You hear people giving cancerous comments about their neighbor without any thought about what they might be going through. People often use the words ”it’s just my opinion” to hurt others. People assume that by stating that it is their opinion and that they are entitled to it gives them the right to hurt a person without thinking about the repercussions of their actions. Reading posts and blogs about hateful opinions annoy me sometimes because it feels as if freedom of speech has been devalued. It has somehow evolved from an intellectual point of view into an ugly excuse used with disregard to hide something more ugly, hate and discrimination. I’ve noticed a lot of people, especially in social networking sites, misuse opinions and freedom of speech to point blank criticize someone they don’t like. Body shaming, bullying, racism and the like have all been hidden and validated by the words “it’s just my opinion and I’m entitled to.”
And people wonder why many people are going through depression nowadays. It’s because people want to genuinely show their honest selves, but it’s these hateful comments that make us want to hide in the dark corner where no one can see us.
Opinions can be deceptive. While they can be highly praised as a mark of intelligence, of a strong personality and good leadership, they can also pave the way for lies and misjudgment, and with that you miss the opportunity to seek the truth. You miss out on these truths because you don’t want to take responsibility for your words.
As Bill Bullard once said:
“Opinion is really the lowest form of human knowledge; it requires no accountability, no understanding. The highest form of knowledge, according to George Eliot, is empathy, for it requires us to suspend our egos and live in another’s world. It requires profound, purpose‐larger‐than‐the‐self kind of understanding.”
And this understanding has definitely saved me from a lot of arguments and misjudgment, but most importantly, it has saved me from hurting people.
At the end of the day, freedom of speech isn’t meant to hurt people. We can use this freedom to tear people down, but we can also use it to build a brighter future for our community. Each and every one has a voice, and everyone wants to be heard. But when people are shouting their own hateful words, how can you possibly hear the truth?