What do 2,390 dead American soldiers have to do with “slightly irregular” human beings who write letters to the editor? Everything. I don’t find the war in Iraq funny. Much like sprinkles and The Grimace (the beloved purple friend of Ronald McDonald), the war in Iraq does not bring joy to my heart. I choose not to talk about the war because there isn’t anything I or we can do until the midterm elections. But when I hear statements such as “This, of course, is my opinion, and god-given American right” from said “slightly irregular” people, my stomach churns (Source: 2020Sight blog entry. God-given American right, huh? How often do we hear that crap on Ricky Lake?
We have all encountered someone in our lives who spews at the mouth offering little to anyone but exercising their “god-given” right because they think the first amendment is a free pass to be an asshole. While I grant that God gave us many things, the freedom to express ourselves publicly was not one of them. We were given the ability to communicate, we were given the ability to think and believe what we want, but the right to express ourselves in the public forum without legal repercussion? God didn’t give that to us. The framers of the constitution, drawing heavily on the work of John Locke, gave us that right.
Even with that right there are some things you can’t say. You can’t breach the peace by uttering words that will cause a rational person to beat the crap out of you. You can’t libel someone by making false statements about them. You can’t make obscene statements (good luck defining obscenity by the way) and you can’t make statements that will immediately harm a lot of people. Even some of the people who granted us the beloved first amendment passed laws restricting seditious speech for a period of time. Throughout history we’ve seen limitations placed on our speech from the government during times of crisis. The first amendment is entirely a human project and subject to human behavior. If God gave us the first amendment, there wouldn’t be anything wrong with it. Did you ever stop to think about how flawlessly your body, the earth, and the universe have to operate everyday in order to watch reruns of Seinfeld on TBS?
Our soldiers — your friends, neighbors, or family — die defending our ability to express ourselves in the public forum. I’ll let that sink in for a minute. A soldier died to protect your right to blog about the boring, mind numbing differences between buying beers in your college town and buying it at home. A soldier died for your right to self-publish egotistical, self-serving statements that you made to your non-existent friends while you eat by yourself. A soldier died so you can pretend to speak for everyone in writing your holier-than-thou letters. Of course, arrogance is blinding, so I’m willing to wager that for most people who write in offering criticism and no solutions every week, they don’t stop to think about the high cost paid for their chance to be a jerk.
Aside from the few good people who write in to their campus newspapers with legitimate complaints and solutions, the rest of the pack is filled with gutless weirdoes who take every chance they can get to tear other people, their school, and student organizations down. I honestly feel these letters should not be run. If someone wants to bitch, let them cry about it in their live journal. College newspaper editors today don’t face the same ethical dilemmas their predecessors had. The newspaper is no longer the only medium for the public to discuss issues. Today if the public wanted they could start a blog, use a Pacman character to shield their identity, and bitch about loud conversations disrupting their dinner if they wanted to. Why should editors have to waste paper sharing that thought with customers who don’t care? The public doesn’t want to hear from arrogant loners who hold their community in contempt. They want ideas, they want community, and they want a constructive discussion that results in something. American Soldiers die to protect our right to express our opinion. The least we can do for those soldiers and their families is to respect what they died for.Powered by Sidelines