Happy Independence Day! The Fourth of July really is a time for celebration. It's a time to gather with friends and family, eat some barbecue, and--if you're in my family--debate politics. I know, I know--in polite (read: Southern) society you're supposed to avoid three topics at the dinner table: sex, politics, and religion. Well, we somehow manage to break the rule as it pertains to the second of those three items.
Of course, this holiday probably won't be so contentious since my left-leaning brother and sister-in-law will not be present, which also means it won't be as fun. My younger brother's ultra-conservatism and my socially conservative pseudo-conservatism usually butt heads with them, and while things can get a little heated, it's all in good fun. We might leave the table without having changed any minds, but there's still a vigorous, if occasionally heated, exchange of ideas.
Debate is one of the things that makes this country so great. It's also something that we as Americans need to be careful about. My family debates politics a great deal, but sometimes we might cross the line in our passionate defenses of our viewpoints. So in the spirit of magnanimity and reasonable discourse, let me issue an apology to my older brother and sister-in-law, in the event that I have ever offended you while defending any of my positions. I am not apologizing for what I believe, but instead for those times when I may have gone overboard.
And we all go overboard sometimes. That's okay every now and then, but we need to maintain a civil level of discourse as often as possible. Getting into arguments around the dinner table with close friends and family is one thing; doing it on national television is another. Conservatives and liberals alike are guilty of incivility in our national discourse. While conservatives tend to get a bad rap because of talk radio and confrontational interviewers like Bill O'Reilly, I would dare say that the most vicious, unfounded attacks come from the Left. Bill O'Reilly might yell at and talk over his guests, but it's usually because he's frustrated with liberal double-speak and the unwillingness of his guest to say what they really mean. Sometimes you have to get a little rough to get to the truth.
I'm sure there are plenty of conservatives out there who call President Barack Obama names or who wish aloud that Michael Moore was dead, but the shrill, non-stop hatred coming from liberals is staggering. It's also extremely hypocritical. Hate speech legislation and university hate speech codes are almost exclusively leftist measures that, ironically, limit free speech. I'll admit--conservatives and Republicans take a pretty unpopular stance on these kinds of things. We tend to believe that people should be able to say what they think and and believe, even if it is repulsive. That's why we let liberals get away with so much. Ever wondered why liberal college kids weren't tossed in prisons in droves for saying such asinine things as "Bush lied, kids died"? It's because their right to say those things, regardless of how slanderous or treasonous they were, is protected in the First Amendment.
What about when the shoe is on the foot? Everyone hates the Ku Klux Klan and their message. It's morally reprehensible and offensive--much like anti-Bush protestors (I'm not trying to imply moral equivalency--the KKK is far worse than a handful of misguided New York Times columnists). But just because we disagree with what they say does not mean they lose their rights to say it. Liberals, for all of their fawning over the ACLU and the First Amendment, have a hard time grasping that simple constitutional truth.
Free speech is for everyone. Our Founding Fathers intended it that way. Also, I'm pretty Thomas Jefferson would have loved blogging.
Happy Independence Day!