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I've Got Something to Say
The Freedom of Speech has finally up and flown away. No longer can I proudly declare my feelings, defend something I love, or even show my personal opinions. No longer can I happily loll in the bliss of innocence, as I once did, now that this right has been infringed upon.
“Honestly, what is this girl talking about?” You ask, snickering, most likely, or shaking your head in pity at my outright refusal to what you know is a misled cause. Or is it? Misled or not, what I have to say is of concern to all of us. We are no longer allowed to speak freely, even though we live in America, what was once thought of as the country of dreams.
Let me give you an example. “Oh my God. That’s so gay!”
Now I personally don’t like people to say “oh my God” as to me it is disrespectful to God. However, people can say it if they so choose. Right? Wrong! Public schools in most cities have rules against any mention of religion in the schools. That includes religious holidays as well: no mention of Christmas, Hanukkah, Easter, Passover or any others allowed, as it may offend some “other parties”. What other parties? The Atheists or Agnostics? Technically, their slander of my religion is offensive to ME, but do I kick up a fuss? No! Because that is an infringement upon their freedom of speech.
Also, gayness and straightness. I am strictly a straight person and will firmly tell you I do not believe in gayness. However, there are people who do, and that is their business. It’s fine with me. I’m not going to prosecute them in the streets: it is their belief, and I honor it as they honor mine. I am not going to run around and slander gay people just for the sake of it. However, even if I were, there are groups and organizations who would stop me and have me arrested. You know what? That’s an infringement on my right of speech.
Once I was at a summer camp for a week. I was playing soccer with some of my friends, and we were taking turns pretending the soccer ball was the head of someone we disliked, and then kicked it.
“Gabriel!” one friend shouted, pretending it was his stepfather.
“Hitler!” another cried.
“My brother’s stupid social worker!” yet another yelled.
At my turn, I promptly shouted the name of a politician whom me and my family firmly disliked, and kicked the soccer ball as hard as I could. When I turned around and saw the rest of my friends, they were gaping at me. How could I say that? They asked. That’s mean!
Okay, so it may have been a little uncalled for. I acknowledge that now. But I don’t believe in the politics of that particular character, and I can voice that. I should voice that: it is almost my duty. Still, I remember the shocked expressions on their faces, as though I had said something sacrilegious. This was when I first became aware of how little freedom of speech we had anymore.
Even worse than those before-mentioned, though, is the policing going on in our own homes, all around the world. On our computers and other electronic items, the infringement begins, and here it is worse than any other kind. But it is not the scorn from our friends when we say we dislike a politician; it is not the order of the school that we can’t mention our religious beliefs; it isn’t even those organizations dedicated entirely to the rights of racial minorities and gay people’s beliefs. No, the worst of it is that the policing is done by people just like you and me.
Be it the Facebook fans, the Yahoo users or even the Teen Ink readers like us, all of us are being silenced. Did you know that Yahoo censors what you can write in your little updates area? If it mentions the word “gay” it is immediately left off. You may enter it, but it will not appear. Not being a personal user of Facebook I do not know its rights and wrongs, but I can also say, with true sorrow, that Teen Ink itself is infringing upon our freedom of speech.
“That’s preposterous!” You cry. “I don’t believe it!”
The sad part is it isn’t Teen Ink itself who is silencing us: it’s the users. That’s right. Any person on here at any time might be silenced. I was. It could possibly be you who silenced me.
When a person posts a comment of sweetness such as “I really like this! Good job!” which I have done on numerous occasions, you get sweet little comments back. However, I have seen several comments by others telling others that their piece of work sucked or was terrible and that the author or artist had no talent. This person has every right to say they didn’t like it, be it mean or over the top (they could have simply said it wasn’t for them, or better yet say nothing), but what is saddening is that you can inform the Teen Ink staff and the comment will disappear. Silenced! Or worse, I once read a post and came to the author’s defense. I said “I realize you have a right to your opinion, as do I. If you didn’t like it, I can understand, but perhaps you should think of it from their point of view. Our words should be sweet even if what we say isn’t.” I suppose that person took that as me infringing on their right, and my comment was removed.
Honestly! I was defending the author! That deserved no silencing! And the person who stated their opinion? Their comment was removed as well. And while I can’t say I agreed to what they had to say, they didn’t deserve to have themselves silenced.
People used to be hanged for saying anything unflattering about the King, whether it be something outright like disagreeing with his unfair taxes or something simply such as “I wish he’d get a new wig.” There are countries in today’s world where people can’t say what is on their mind, and where they cannot speak up for what they believe in. That is why they dream of coming to America. How must it feel, for them to arrive and realize that it truly isn’t free?
Be it a worthy cause or idea or simply slander in the name of boredom, people should be able to say what they like whether it offends people or not. It isn’t until this right is revoked that we realize what a privilege it is, and what a terrible thing it is to lose. I am no longer able to enjoy the happiness of a burden-less life if I must now watch every word that comes out of my mouth or keyboard. Freedom of Speech is important, and I fear it is like the majestic white tiger and giant panda bear: going extinct.