You may or may not have heard about the newest news out of Carleton University.
I don’t want to draw too much attention to it, because that’s just what the perpetrator wanted – attention… And he definitely got it…
We were talked about on a European website (I think it was called Pink News – it says it’s Europe’s Gay and Lesbian news or something like that) and obviously the issue was discussed in Ottawa… Many times.
Basically, this one guy (7th year human rights major with a minor in sexuality studies, and a self-describe “gay rights activist”) who seems to think he’s more right than everyone else decided to destroy a “Free Speech Wall” put up to encourage students to express differing and even opposing views on anything and everything.
That sounds like a good idea right? Free Speech is generally seen as a necessity in democratic countries. It’s protected under S.2 of the Charter – although it is subject to reasonable limits as outlined in S.1.
Well, this one person took it upon himself to destroy the wall before anyone could write something potentially triggering on it. This wasn’t even a reaction – although he talked about two “offensive” opinions.
Here’s the problem, everyone likes to think they support free speech but when it comes down to it, most people mean “free speech for people who share my beliefs and opinions… Everyone else should shut up.”
Obviously, that’s not free speech.
Mr. “Not every opinion is valid, nor deserving of expression” didn’t like that someone had written “Abortion is murder” (to which someone else replied “It’s just a clump of cells” or something to that effect – you know, an appropriate response to an opinion you disagree with) and was absolutely appalled that someone had the nerve to write “Traditional marriage is awesome.”
Can you believe someone would say something positive about traditional marriage?!?!?
He also conveniently didn’t talk about the large messages of “Queers are awesome,” “Gay is ok,” and “I ❤ queers” – he only saw the two opinions he didn’t like and the potential for hate.
This brings me to another problem… people turning “free speech” into “hate speech.” I think “hate speech” should refer only to something actually inciting violence towards a group of people. Saying “Being gay is a sin” is not the same as saying “Stone the gays” or something equally as violent. The first is an opinion, which I believe everyone has the right to have, whereas the second is inciting violence towards a group of people and is intimidating.
Maybe I’m wrong, but that’s what I believe. I hope I’m still allowed to think for myself here.
This also brings me back to the first problem of people only wanting free speech to apply to their own opinions. So let me tell you a story – a true story, that happened to me.
About five and a half ish years ago (the summer before grade nine) I was in a chat room online (yeah, I made silly choices when I was younger) and my screen name was BlessedJewishChick (I’m proud of my heritage). This one guy, his name was Mike, started a conversation with me but I felt he was being rude so when he asked for my a/s/l (age/sex/location – for those who don’t know internet shorthand) I replied with a rather pointy, “Not for you.”
He didn’t like being rejected so he told me something to the effect of “Heil Hitler” in an effort to offend me (or at least I suppose that was his intention).
I basically told him “You do that. I won’t judge you… And God Bless you too.” I didn’t rise to his bait, I didn’t give him the reaction he’d hoped for (I suppose he wanted me to cry or swear or something like that) but my mature response made him very apologetic afterwards. He kept saying how sorry he was and how he didn’t mean it and he just got angry that I rejected him and I still wasn’t affected. He complimented my maturity over and over again and eventually we became really good friends. I was 14.
That is how strongly I believe in two principles. 1. Free Speech: Everyone is allowed to have whatever opinion they want, and they can express it too. Everyone also has the right to be wrong. (It would be nice if people could admit to being wrong too, but I think I’m asking too much there.) 2. Being offended is a choice. Mike absolutely meant to hurt me with his comment but I refused to let someone else make me feel something I didn’t want to feel. I chose to be happily unaffected by his silliness, to maintain my composure and to answer him with maturity he didn’t expect (especially from someone four years his junior).
My non-combativeness was way more effective than any amount of yelling or any action could have been – even though it was very obvious who was right and who was wrong in this situation. If I had risen to his bait, he would have been satisfied that he’d angered me, that I’d given him the power to affect my mood and I would still have been right, but he would have felt that he’d somehow won something. Instead, I made him feel like a child who’d lashed out for no reason… and I was still right. He just felt bad about it now, and had to apologize. He even respected me for holding my own.
So why am I saying all of this? One, because I think that’s a pretty cool story; but more importantly, getting back to the issue that sparked all this discussion of free speech, I think it’s really unfortunate that we supposedly uphold free speech but in reality have a double-standard of allowing our own opinions but disallowing ones we disagree with.
Going back to the “offensive” comments from the Free Speech Wall (which has been re-erected by the way), I happen to agree with both sentiments. I think traditional marriage (ie. between one man and one woman) is really awesome and I also think abortion is murder. I would never stop anyone from writing underneath “Same-sex marriage is even better” or “Babies are awful and parasitic… they just make women fat and we should destroy them all” or you know, whatever other opinions there are.
You know why? Because they’re just opinions. At the end of the day, I make my own choices, form my own opinion, hold my own beliefs and think my own thoughts. I don’t need validation from anyone else. It’s also not my job to judge people on their wrong beliefs.
God will take care of that, so I shouldn’t worry about it.
I’m responsible for my own actions and I’m called to love my enemies. I pray for the guy who destroyed the wall because he’s misguided and has a very warped view of the world. But would I want any harm to come to him? No. Not if I can help it. (I wouldn’t complain though if he stopped disturbing so much shit all the time.)
So I really want you to think about the ideas of Free Speech, Being Offended and Loving your Enemies. By the way, feel free to tell me I’m wrong too… I think I have to approve your comments before they appear on the blog, but I won’t deny any of them. (I might * swear words though.)
And with that, I will end this long blog and wish you all very happy lives.
God Bless you ❤
Oh, and one more thing; there’s a channel called Sun New Network which has excellent news programming. The hosts do have their own biases – obviously – but they let the opposing side have their say. They had this kid on to justify his actions even though they obviously disagree with him (as do most people) and they frequently have guests who hold views completely opposite to their. It’s a much fairer news network than the other ones. If you search “free speech” on their website (http://www.sunnewsnetwork.ca/) you’ll find some videos talking about the Free Speech Wall which was taken down, including the interview with the perpetrator.
They also have a petition on right now asking for people to support them in having more exposure (http://www.canadiantvfirst.ca/)
This also reminds me of my thoughts on “equality” but I’ll save that for another post.
Man, why can’t writing essays be as easy as writing blogs in the middle of the night?