THE RIVER …

I’ve always felt that the best way to win an argument is to be right and let the other side talk.

If you’re truly right, they will eventually talk themselves into a corner and get engulfed in their own frustration. And you won’t have to say that many words. The world will know. But in order to have that kind of a debate, everyone must be allowed to speak their mind openly and freely. For my money, the first amendment is the most important one for just that reason. Maybe that’s why it’s the FIRST one.

There aren’t many things I will march for. I wouldn’t march with Promise Keepers or Tea Partiers or Occupiers or women or men or …well …anyone. I don’t march. It just never looks like a good time to me. I don’t know if it ever solves anything and it just always feels like a bunch of people yelling out in the heat. I don’t like loud noises and I’m not fond of chafing. So, no …I don’t march.

But if I were to ever march for anything, it would be for free speech. I’m a pretty big crusader for that right. I have made a living, my entire adult life, on freedom of speech. My father did the same and my grandfather did the same. The basic ability to say what’s on your mind is the cornerstone of the American experiment. Without it, none of the other rights matter. Speech is sacred. It’s the flowing river on which every other right we have floats or drowns. It’s the basis for all art and expression. Without basic freedom of speech we wouldn’t have Martin Luther King Jr, Buddy Holly, Billy Graham, Hugh Hefner, Chris Rock, Joel Osteen, Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGeneres, Wayne Dyer, Madonna, Prince, Alex Jones, Sarah Silverman, Reverend Wright, Johnny Cash, Jane Fonda, Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Bruce Springsteen, Frank Sinatra, Ronald Reagan, Maya Angelou, Barack Obama, Donald Trump.

You were probably reading that, saying, “what are THEY doing on this list?!?!” Well …THEY are all people who have let us all know where they stand. It doesn’t mean we have to agree or disagree with them. It simply means that for better or worse, they have shown us who they are. And THAT is the essence of the first amendment.

I get private messages almost weekly, asking how I can tolerate this person or that person. People wonder why I keep such a wide range of opinions and points of view in my news feed. The truth is I actually WANT to hear from every side of every topic. I truly want more speech, NOT less. As long as we’re talking, we’re safe. We have everything out on the table. We see each other. The danger comes when one side clams up and accepts that they aren’t being heard.

If you’ve ever been in (or known someone in) an abusive relationship, you know they reach a point of silent acquiescence, where they simply surrender the verbal territory to the abuser. At that point, they don’t need to talk anymore. They know they’ll just get shouted down. So they plan their escape instead. Once the dialog has ended, the relationship is essentially over.

As we watch speech being shut down on college campuses, I wonder if we’re not heading for the end of a national relationship. People are still reeling from the Trump presidential win. My personal view is that they’re reeling because they were never really listening. There were voices trying to tell us, “Hey …we’re being ignored, here. We’re not being heard or understood, here. You’re missing the point, here.” And those people came out in droves to vote for the most unlikely presidential candidate in history.

This is why we must ALWAYS listen. Even if we disagree. In fact, ESPECIALLY when we disagree. Shutting down things you don’t want said isn’t actually shutting it down. It’s just moving it somewhere else. More often than not, it’s moving it further to the fringes. Shutting down speech just drives it under ground, into the arms of the like-minded. And before we know it, we have waring factions and we’re asking ourselves, “how did it ever come to this?”

In my mind’s eye I see it metaphorically …

We’re on opposite sides of a river and we’re yelling at each other, trying to find a safe place to cross. If someone on one side of the river stops listening to the person on the other side, they might still find that place to cross on their own. But while they were finding the crossing point on their own and not listening to the yelling person on the other side, the person being ignored gave up on the yelling and simply found people on their own side of the river to talk to.

By the time the person looking for the crossing point gets across, they will encounter a tribe they do not know or understand. Because they haven’t been talking to them. They stopped listening. And by the time they get to common ground it isn’t common anymore. The ignored tribe has made its own rules and set its own course. And now it doesn’t see someone who was looking for common ground. It only sees an intruder. An invader. A threat.

And it could’ve all been avoided if they had just kept yelling at each other.

I welcome all points of view in my world. It doesn’t mean I have to agree with all points of view. I believe there are wrong points of view and right ones. I believe in certain things and won’t budge on certain core principles. But if I only talk to people I like or agree with I will stop understanding the person on the other side of the river; the person I’m trying to get to. And that’s how we go backward instead of forward.

No one has the right to be heard. Your’e not guaranteed a crowd. But everyone should have the right to speak. We need to know who you are. Your speech tells the world where you stand. It lets us know if you are a good soul or a bully. It lets us know how you feel about things. It puts everything on the record. And that is as it should be.

When I find myself in an argument with someone, I end up wanting them to say more …not less. They’re letting me know everything I need to know.

And THAT helps me determine if they’re worth crossing the river for.

R

17 thoughts on “THE RIVER …

  1. There was a bit on FOX news last night that 70% of those openly members of the Democratic party on Facebook have no friends who are Republicans and actively unfriend any Trump supporter they meet. The same is not true for Republicans. I found your post refreshing, especially after days of hearing about Ann Coulter (who I detest) should not be allowed to speak because she is so vile that she causes other people to become violent. I recently traveled up through the middle of the country in my travel trailer and I met a lot of people there in the “flyover” states. (What a callous way to label them!) They are really suffering and most places were solid Trumpers. The Democratic party has to fix this or they will never be in power again. Good post!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I’m shutting down, quite honestly. It scares me to death to watch people being silenced with bullying tactics.

    I can’t stand Coulter, I feel she is very derisive, and even a bully herself, but no more than the celebs out there spouting leftest dogma with pussy hats on.

    When did we decide that it was okay for Madonna to talk about blowing up the White House and not okay for Coulter to speak our against her?

    Basically, that’s it, right? Two perspectives, one popular the other not. High Schook shit.

    The thing is, my life remains the same in middle America, I will finish paying my kids’ college debt, thankfully watch out 401k grow some, and sit with my husband trembling as we try to imagine if we will ever afford to retire.

    And honestly, we feel we have a blessed life, but we stopped talking about our uncertain future.

    What’s most fascinating, is Trump will continue to see to the needs of this silent tribe of middle to upper middle class folks who will continue to go to church, pray for unity, go to work everyday, pay more than our share of taxes. We will man the stores, police the streets, minister to the sick. We will work in the suffocating mines, kick up dust in our tractors, and teach the children.

    And our silence will speak at the polls. Just like they did in November.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I agree completely; never could understand the people who want to make burning your own flag illegal, or forcing people to stand for the pledge of allegiance. It isn’t allegiance if you’re made to do it, it is simply coercion.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hit the nail on the head again!!!. I cannot and will not understand how Democrats call themselves the tolerant ones yet refuse, time and time again, to let people with opposing views speak. Are they tolerant only of those who agree with them. I would be ashamed to admit I were a liberal with this type of thing going on at colleges, of all places, where you go to LEARN.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This is very well-written, and very well-said.
    I think there is wiggle room at the fringes; for example, vis-a-vis the college disorderliness referenced, I think Milo Yiannopolous’ habit of publicly outing persons in vulnerable positions (eg LGBT, undocumented) and his announced intention to do more of that at Berkeley put his planned bullying outside the range of *free expression of ideas*. But that’s an outlier; the idea that, eg, Charles Murray presented a danger to students at Middlebury is absurd.
    When Ahmedinijad of Iran was invited to speak at Columbia, the political teams were on opposite sides of what’s been happening recently, and liberals would have been furious if he had been stopped from speaking.

    Like

  6. Reggie I look forward to your logic shares. Common sense and common decency are no longer common, but in your space they are freely given. I suppose if beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so is grace and reason. In reading your comments, it is evident you bring out the best in us as well . When someone rails at me that my thoughts, words and deeds make them angry, I figure they have surrendered control over their behavior to me. I would much prefer they control their own behavior. I am busy enough just containing mine. Thanks for always leaving me wanting to read more.

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