During the recent events of "Je suis Charlie" that brought millions together in the world screaming from the tops of buildings in the name of freedom of speech, I, a concerned mother, sat at home wondering what this event would teach my girls about free speech and how this lesson would intersect with teaching them common moral values. The truth is, I know that I can't have it both ways. I can't fill my child with lessons of kindness yet tell them at the same time that it is alright to speak whatever comes to mind. I know that I can't teach them to respect fellow mankind, in order to coexist, and yet say that it is acceptable to speak as they wish, whatever the costs.
Thankfully, they are still little and have only the weight of which cartoon they should choose to watch when they return from school on their shoulders. However, the choice to live in this beautiful land of the free will eventually pose this dilemma as they walk through their journey of life. As they grow in this generation of entitlement, this is what I will share with them when they first come to me with their "I have a right to free speech" argument.
My dear baby girls,
The gift of free speech is not your entitlement. It is a gift to you that was fought for by the ancestors of this land and world at a price. Treasure it as you would the ability to breathe on earth. The American people are blessed with this right that only exists as a privilege in other countries and as a dream, yet in others. As an American, you must treat this responsibility with respect.
Find your voice, but use it wisely. Use it to make this world a better place to live in. Use it to fulfill your life's purpose. If your only intention to speak your mind freely is to hurt others, then think again. If the only outcome to your freedom of speech is negativity and the feeding of your ego, then refrain. Do not use your words to lower your spirit to that of the person filled with hatred. The person filled with such hatred knows how to fight back with hatred. You'll never win. Stump this hatred instead with words of love filled with reason.
Freedom of speech is not free. It comes with costs. It does not only attract the wise man but also the empty vessels in this world. It can provide shelter for the bullies. It can open the door to intolerance of people's differences. It can invite unacceptable reactions to words. With freedom of speech, comes the need to take responsibility for one's words.
Finally, always remember. The unwise human being speaks because he can. The enlightened being speaks because he must.