Tuesday, October 24th, 2017

Editorial: Free speech is the right of everyone

“I disagree with what you say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”*

With those words, Coach Don Beck ingrained in his history students in 1988 the very essence of freedom of speech. America needs Coach Beck right now.

It’s always easy to defend the person whose speech you agree with, but the true test is if you are willing to extend that same freedom to others.

Roger Estlack, Editor

Over the last year, there has been a growing protest of professional athletes refusing to stand for the national anthem in a move that is meant to draw attention to what they see as social injustices. The move has had the predictable backlash as patriotic Americans have become outraged by this behavior.

The rancor between the protestors and the flag wavers was bad enough, but it was taken to a new level this week when President Donald Trump felt the need to get involved.

Not content to deal with important issues facing this country, the president waded into the NFL controversy over the weekend by insulting those who protest, calling for any “son of ______” who disrespects the American flag should be fired or suspended by team owners. He also went on to call for boycotts of NFL teams over the protests.

This is not new behavior for Mr. Trump. He is consistently belligerent to anyone who expresses anything other than total devotion and admiration of him and his administration.

Consider the case of ESPN’s Jemele Hill who recently called the president a white supremacist. Trump took to Twitter to rebuke her comments and then later his press secretary suggested that the network should consider Hill’s comments a fireable offense.

It is an absolutely truth that actions have consequences. If an employee behaves in a way or talks in a way that offends their employer, then that person may soon find themselves out of a job. Colin Kaepernick has learned that. Other NFL players will likely learn that. That’s just part of life.

But for a White House and even the president himself to intervene in the situation and call for people to loose their jobs, is beyond the pale. This is a man who took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution. It is his sworn job to defend our rights as citizens… not to throw cold water on our rights or bully people for exercising those rights.

And yet, that is just what this president does time and time again.

If you’re a reporter who prints something that Mr. Trump doesn’t like, you are ostracized and said to be a purveyor of “fake news,” which is an odd statement to make from someone who routinely exaggerates at best or just makes stuff up at worst.

Here’s a suggestion, if you don’t want to see stuff written about your actions in office, don’t run for office. If you’re a public official, your actions are the public’s business, and it’s the press’ business to make sure those actions stay in the open. But I digress…

As a nation, we need to step back and remember the words of Coach Beck. We have devolved into a society that largely just doesn’t want to hear any opposing viewpoints. You can troll Facebook and see that. People would rather “unfriend” someone than be acquainted with someone who holds a different political or religious point of view. That is un-American.

The American way that we used to be taught was that you could agree to disagree. You can have divergent opinions and still be friends if you have mutual respect for each other.

There are many things bigger than the arguments that are consuming society. Freedom is bigger than the flag or the anthem. And the most important thing to remember is that freedom has to be everyone. We are all free, or none of us are. Your free speech means nothing if your neighbor can’t disagree with you.

The president would do well to learn that fact and to remember that his job is not to divide this country, but to protect the rights of everyone… even the people who hate him

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