Unadulterated Freedom of Speech in America

Last night I watched a DVD of the movie Margaret.  It’s about a girl having to deal with traumatic stress from causing an accident in which a stranger was killed.  The movie was mostly about the girl’s problems with or without the accident.  Not all of it though.  Maybe it’s because the movie takes place in NYC, but there just seemed to be a lot deep material, including political viewpoints.  One particular non-gloomy scene which stuck out at me was when the girl is in some kind of discussion or debate class and Terrorism becomes the focal point:

The main character, Lisa, gets into a heated argument with a Syrian-American student who chose to defend her Syrian family.  Lisa gets in a tizzy because the girl suggests that Americans are hypocrites and terrorists themselves.  The argument goes around the room until, finally, another student speaks up and says she thinks the Syrian student deserves an apology because she was only speaking her opinion.  Lisa seems appalled by the suggestion and continually fails to grasp any point-of-view but her own, thereby somewhat rationalizing the other’s student’s points.

One mentioning of this “US Policy in the Middle East” scene (http://www.justpressplay.net/reviews/9614-margaret.html) describes it with the following: “Lisa’s own confusion regarding the ultimate morality of her actions (i.e.  whether initiating a lawsuit will actually make anything better) is doubtlessly  meant to reflect the spiritual confusion that followed the century’s most  notable terrorist attack, but given how incompletely New York is evoked on a  visual level, the parallel is less effective than it might otherwise be.”

Morality.  What is good and what is bad.  How do we define morality?  This is the center of the argument in Margaret’s debate scene, reflecting Lisa’s constant confliction in defining what is the moral thing to do and what isn’t.  But morality is, for lack of a better word, merely an opinion.  It’s just an important opinion.  Whether we base it off of personal decision, experience, religion or other influence, our morals become the foundation under our feet as we move forward in life.  From this podium, we may voice our personal opinion – an opinion structure around these morals.  This is the American concept of Freedom of Speech.  But what happens when our structures differ so greatly?

As with Lisa failing to see how Americans entering the Middle East could draw hypocritical parallels to the terroism that drew us there, we fail to see another perspective through these enormous, underlying disparages.  When we are so bent on one opinion and one way of life, we close our minds to the true definition of Freedom of Speech, to the fact that it is a given right in America to preach things that might morally offend the rest of the world.  You have the right because you believe it.  It is morality, not the truth of the world.  It is belief, not the science that keeps the planet spinning.

This entire topic reminds me of my First Amendment debate class in sophomore year of college.  Our discussions would be arguments of whether or not, e.g., Nazis could demonstrate by peaceful marching down the streets of Beechwood (a heavily-Jewish community in Cleveland).  Our papers were briefs in which we had to write from either assigned perspectives of cases centered around the First Amendment.  It was interesting to see how this one Jewish girl in my class could not grasp how Nazis peacefully marching anywhere in Cleveland should not be allowed.  But the point comes right back to this: Opinion, beliefs, morals, and the right to peacefully demonstrate these things.

Perspectives aren’t right or wrong.  They might not agree with the majority, but they are not right or wrong.  Honestly, I feel like this is part of why I haven’t gone to law school, although I have to admit I initially looked at environmental law.  Now my focus has become Indian Reservations and rights.  But as long as it’s a constitutional battle, I do believe in what the Constitution holds, I agree to it and thus I still live here in this country accepting it without challenge, and I will continue to grit my teeth because I know allowing other opinions should not affect my safety whilst in this country.  Yes, there are Nazis who believe in a superior race, but how do we know that isn’t false?  (Harsh concepts, I know, but be fair.)  The same goes for the KKK.  For those radical church goers who picket everything under the sun.  I could go on forever, but let’s close this up…

My point is (going back to Margaret), Lisa, you’re wrong.  As an American taking advantage of American freedoms, you should apologize and realize that you’ve agreed to the full terms of Freedom of Speech.  You’ve agreed to accept that someone might think Americans are terrorists.  Christ, you’ve even agreed to accepting that someone felt 9/11 was justified because America is corrupt.  It’s the harsh reality and, while my personal beliefs and morals don’t line up with such “sadistic” concepts (that was an opinon there, did you see it?), it doesn’t mean that it’s wrong.

Suck it up, my friends, for to each, his own.

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