So here I go once again, just when I thought my words about words were over and done with. Not so fast. On Sunday in the New York Times magazine there was an article about a case that will be heard by the Supreme Court. It is about the 1st Amendment, and the individual right to free speech. Seems like a clear-cut case right? It isn’t. It seems a marriage dissolved, the male half of the couple went onto social media and posted about wanting to kill his ex-wife, he actually went into some detail, and more than that he made a video. He claims that he was venting anger and frustration, that he never actually intended to follow through on any of what he wrote. Meanwhile, the ex-wife was very frightened, enough to take out an order of protection. She does not feel that he should be able to terrorize her even if it is only through words. He served some jail time, and is now suing for his right to free speech. (This is a very simplified explanation of the case.) The case that will be presented to the Supreme Court is asking this question: What is more important, the right of the individual to express what he feels? Or the rights of the person that those words focus on who lives in fear of the threat?
I don’t think there is one among us who hasn’t said something in anger that we aren’t proud of, or wish we could take back. I’m pretty sure we have all also been rather casual in tossing around the word “hate”, “I hate him.” or “I hate you.” Sometimes in jest, sometimes in reference to an actor in a movie, someone we don’t even know, but for some reason there is something about that person you find distasteful. We don’t really hate them. I think for most people if they really did hate someone they would have a difficult time saying it to the person’s face. This is my issue with what this man did, and for that matter what people in my own life have done. I mentioned the family member in my last two posts who was saying hateful things. Do I really think he hates my husband? No I don’t. Social media have become society’s mask to hide behind. How easy it is to say mean and hateful things when you don’t have to look someone in the face. It makes bullying easier, it makes racism easier, it makes sitting in judgment easier. Think about it. Isn’t that the reason that a particular organization wears white hoods covering their faces? Would you have the nerve to walk up to someone you barely know and call them a coward and a liar? I am asking all of us to remember that behind that screen lies a human heart that can forever hold the scars of what it’s mind sees and reads.
I ask because someone I know has just had such an experience on Facebook. He wrote a remark on someone’s post. He did it because the person was mistaken, it was not his place to do so, and I have told him that. It didn’t end there. Someone else that it had nothing to do with joined in. The person I know sent a private message that man and questioned why, but told this man he was doing it via private message as to not have a public discourse on a page that belongs to someone else. What he got in return was a message calling him a coward for not posting publicly, and calling him a liar. He is neither. He has not responded, although he wants to, but I have told him to let it go. This person doesn’t know him. I can only assume through connections that he may have heard things that aren’t true, but I can’t be sure. Fueling ignorance gives people more to feed on. Do I want to say something? You bet I do (Obviously I have a lot to say about a lot of things….), but I won’t.
As I said before, I don’t want hatred or anger in my life. I am just deeply disturbed by those who hide behind the mask. Why must people resort to name calling? When my husband was dealing with his family member he asked for facts. He never got any. He got name calling. What is wrong with old-fashioned debate? What happened to, “I believe you are mistaken for these reasons…fact…fact…fact.” In return, “I see your point, but were you aware of…fact…fact…fact.” It worked that way for a long time. I am aware that even facts can be skewed to one’s own perspective, but at least no one was calling anyone else a liar.
There is a loss of decorum in our society, a loss of self-respect, class, and by that I mean to present oneself to the world in our best sense, through the way we act, dress, and speak. It is becoming increasingly easier to spread untruth, to spread vile words, to spew hatred. I’m on the fence with the Supreme Court decision. I do believe in free speech, very much so as I write what I believe here on these pages, but I also feel a duty to not use my words to hurt people. Free speech was meant to make us a better people, a greater Nation, by giving us the right to criticize that Nation. It was never meant as a blank check to use as a means to bully teenagers into killing themselves, or to cause fear in another because of anger and frustration, it was never intended to be used to dehumanize our fellow citizen. We live in a country that guarantees us the right to speak, but we should also as citizens not just of this Country, but as citizens of the world at large, use our words carefully. I sometimes write of spirituality and love, today I share wise words from some who are far wiser than I:
And he called the people to him and said to them, “Hear and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.”
He who believes in Allah and the Last Day should either utter good words or better keep silence.
A bird that you set free may be caught again, but a word that escapes your lips will not return.
“Silence is sometimes the best answer.”
In the end I guess I do have a few more words, and quite possibly some wise ones at that.
If you could plant a field of seeds would you sow? Roses or weeds? Remember that words are like seeds, once sown they take root in the hearts and minds of others.
And with that, I have no more words, I only offer you something lovely to plant in your mind for today.