The past few weeks have been interesting, as well as rather distressing to me. Starting with Coming Out Day, there has been quite a stir in The Northerner, not about Coming Out Day per se, but about the “hate-chalkings” that followed.
I would first like to address the content of these messages, which I had the opportunity to view, briefly. None of which, in detail, or even in general terms fit the definition of “hate.” I think this is evident in Rich Shivener’s dramatic article published on the ninth of this month, in that not one of the sayings were reproduced.
Here are two: “Straight is cool” and “man + woman = marriage.” These statements on the heels of Coming Out Day may not have been desired, but were simply someone else’s opinion.
Secondly, I would like to address the letter to the editor written by Kenneth Rivera in response to Shivener’s article. In Rivera’s letter published Nov. 16, he stated, “…if any type of speech causes a single person or group for that matter to feel any type of emotional distress because of a few words of ‘free speech,’ then it is not free. It was said or written at the expense of others, which is morally wrong.”
What function does free speech serve if a counterpoint cannot be present? And can this position only apply to the writers of the chalkings, and not in reverse? If Coming Out Day activities are offensive to another group, should not the same action be taken? I’d also question the logic behind “…distress because of a few words, is not free…” How is it not free? Free speech is protected because it has the potential to offend.
Is it wise to judge good and bad, right and wrong based on emotion alone? Is morality a feeling? Sound decisions are not founded on emotion. Because speech is free in the United States, it doesn’t mean you have to buy into every message.
Free speech is supposed to be constitutionally protected and was undercut by Shivener at the end of his article, applauding the efforts of people censoring the counterpoint; even those rabidly supportive of free speech can be censors themselves.