I Have The Right To An Opinion, Or Do I?

Many times, as Americans, we talk about freedom of speech.  We say we have the right to freedom of speech.  We are right and wrong when we say this.  Our rights to political and religious free speech are supposed to be guaranteed.  If those rights are trespassed against then we can pursue legal redress.  In daily life, however, we may imagine that we have the right to speak our mind, but that is increasingly less and less the case.

I remember years ago hearing my mother and sister talking about how things were not “PC”.  I could not understand what Personal Computers had to do with what they were discussing.  I had been fortunate enough not to have been infected/affected by this rather oppressive concept of things being “politically correct.”  I am politically neutral, I said to myself, so what does this have to do with me?

Many years have passed and this concept of “PC” has grown and grown.  I am a bit startled from time to time at the intolerance people display.  As I heard someone say today, ‘people have the right to be stupid’.  I think that is no longer the case.  Oh, intellectually, you may have the right to be a bigot or a racist or this or that, but that only lasts until you say out loud that you feel that way and then, buster, buckle your seat belt because it’s about to get bumpy.

There is a quotation that I looked up today, similar to one often attributed to Voltaire, but with a bit more of a bite.

“If all mankind minus one were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind. We can never be sure that the opinion we are endeavoring to stifle is false opinion; and if we were sure, stifling it would still be evil.”
John Stuart Mill, 1859 from the Introduction to “On Liberty.”

I fear that people are no longer allowed to have differences of opinion.  There is some anonymous Board Of The Proper Opinion and if you cross it May God (whoops, can’t say that, might offend the Atheists or the Pagans!) Help You.  The problem is that opinions, rather like fashions, come and go.  What was Right four years ago can suddenly be Wrong today.  Things widely regarded as religious teachings held sacred for thousands of years are now cast as ‘opinions’, possibly ‘wrong opinions’ that can’t be tolerated.  If I’m willing to ‘tolerate’ you, why can’t you ‘tolerate’ me?

It is this which concerns me.  If the only true freedom of opinion rests within our skull then there is no more freedom.  If there is no more freedom, then what?  Look to history for what happens when freedom of dissent is no longer allowed.  This country was founded by people who fled Intolerance, who Dissented with the Powers of their time.  If there is no place left any longer for tolerance, for dissent, for honest disagreement, it is a sad day indeed.

To conclude, don’t think I am defending racism or bigotry or hatred.  I’m not.  I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.



5 thoughts on “I Have The Right To An Opinion, Or Do I?

  1. Great post! Really enjoyed reading it. Fancy going into politics? 😛 Ha! I believe in a person’s right to have their unique view of life, and of all things. When Democracy starts to limit what we can do and say it is really not Democracy anymore and to be honest I don’t think there is any Democracy in the world and I don’t think there can be because thinking can be harmless (even if it is racist or hatred or of religious back-ground)- it’s the actions we have to be afraid of! And this is where the line should be drawn- fine, lets us think what we will! But once we start hurting people (innocent or other wise) we can’t have Democracy. So, I agree with you, Laura, on having the right to say what we say, but for limiting actions we should have tyranny. (ah, I have so many thoughts spinning in my head after reading this post 😀 ) Just thinking now, that there is no single perfect political, religious, humanist, cultural way for people. Why? Because there are so many of us and we all have our different ideas of how things should be and work. So the “ideal” formula really would be a mixture of religions (to satisfy every spiritual and holy soul by taking all the good of each religion and following them?), mixture of politics (democracy for right to speak and think, tyranny to keep a limit on the bad actions, because without fear people do evil things? Because tyranny sounds too extreme, lets just say this is only an example), mixture of cultures ( should these be really mixed? because the clashing of cultures in one society is what sometimes causes more problems than the idyllic try to push towards integration of nations?), mixture of humanism (what one person believes is good is generally thought to be good by other person so humanism would be the only common ground for us all?)…. ANYWAY! Sorry, for writing such a memoir in here, your thoughts opened the floodgates of my mind! 😀 And these are just thoughts, I didn’t come to fight your views in your personal space 🙂

    • Very well thought out reply, liisur! I meant to add that part about actions and forgot. Glad you did. I like, too, your statement: “Just thinking now, that there is no single perfect political, religious, humanist, cultural way for people.” If it were left up to people to create that way, no, it could never be done. But if left up to God to create a perfect way, then it is possible. That’s what Jehovah’s Witnesses try to live now, overcoming barriers of color, culture, etc so that we live as brothers. Oh, and thanks for reblogging! That was touching!

  2. Reblogged this on Brain-babies and commented:
    This morning I read a truly inspirational blog post which truly made my head spin with thoughts and ideas and everything. I wanted to share this with you, my followers. I hope Laura’s postt finds you well!

  3. Here in America (can’t speak for other countries) I think we have started a spiral that can never end. Have you ever looked into one of those mirrors set up across from another mirror where it looks like your reflection of your reflection of your reflection… goes on forever? That’s what PC has become in this country. Each ‘group’ is complaining that ‘that group’ is stepping on their rights. I think it is true that we are losing rights every day but I also see a tendency to ‘blame’ someone for that loss. In every group be it religious, political, social etc there are people that give that group a bad name. I see Christians like Westboro doing and saying horrendous things toward GLBT people. I hear Pagans bad mouthing Christians and their beliefs. I hear smokers complaining about their rights being stomped on by non-smokers who don’t want to breathe second hand smoke. These may all be valid complaints but you can’t please everyone all the time and so it spirals.
    Good common sense says – can’t we all just get along? What ever happened to common courtesy? If you don’t agree with someone you don’t have to make a point of harassing them – just live and let live. *Sigh* I guess this is a hot topic for me as well. I’m not saying I’m perfect in any way but I try to be tolerant, understanding, and graceful in my disagreement. We can all learn things from each other. We can all find something in common. Look at us – you and I Laura – We have different religious beliefs but we find that common ground and that is what we stand on. I enjoy reading about your thoughts and your days and your passion for what you believe in. I think everyone should be passionate about their beliefs. We laugh together and cry together over our similarities – that is what we as a people need to start doing. We should be looking for that common ground, seeking that which can be shared and enjoyed together.

    Ok, this comment has gotten way longer than I had intended. I guess a little righteous indignation can indeed get me fired up. 🙂

    • I actually thought about us while I was writing that post, jilly! And the famous, tragic pleadings of Rodney King, ‘why can’t we all just get along?’ It is a frightening thing to watch–the illustration of the mirrors reflecting endlessly was wonderful–and one wonders where it will end. Love that you wrote such an impassioned, thoughtful reply. Love you, my pagan friend.

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