Freedom of Speech

Freedom of speech. We all know that this right exists and we all expect that we'll be able to exercise it. While we are all entitled to the freedom to say what we want, we are not free from the consequences of what we say; ask Donald Trump!

If you threaten bodily harm to someone, don't be surprised if you end up handcuffed. If you run through the airport yelling, "bomb," don't be surprised when you end up on the no-fly list.

I can't remember a time in recent years that have been more volatile than the last several weeks where our beliefs and thoughts on events have been challenged by others with a different point of view.

Depending on where you came down on such things as the Caitlin Jenner transformation, the Supreme Court's decision on marriage, political candidates, or the Bill Cosby scandal, you may find yourself being ostracized by the community.

And nowhere is this more prevalent than on social media.

In recent weeks we've seen tweets being retracted, people being bashed and berated for their Facebook posts, and although it hasn't personally happened to me, I'm sure there's been a lot of unfriending going on.

While we are free to say what we want, we are not free from the consequences of what we say.

I have a friend who insists on posting all the personal details of his life on Facebook. His Facebook page reads like that of a thirteen year old girl. He posts every detail of his life from the mundane (went to the diner today for eggs) to the serious (baby mama drama).

While he seems comfortable airing his proverbial dirty laundry in public, he gets highly offended when anyone comments in a way that he finds offensive to his sensibilities. While he is free to say what he wants, he is not free from the consequences, and in this case the consequence is that people feel free to exercise their right to freedom of speech by commenting.

If you changed your Facebook profile to a rainbow in response to the Supreme Court decision you may have had people rallying around you to appreciate your open-mindedness. You may have had people unfriend you, because your support of the decision goes against their views. While you are free to say, tweet, or post what you want, you are not free from the consequences.

Does that mean that you should never say anything? Not at all. I'm not trying to squash your right to speak, but if you do openly speak your mind, don't be shocked or dismayed when other people speak theirs. And don't be offended if their opinion differs from your own.

I believe that we are coming to a time when people will be tested for speaking up for their beliefs. I believe if anyone goes against the popular stance, they will be persecuted for speaking up. I find that if you don't go along with the popular vote you become a social leper.

The world we live in is changing at a rapid rate. There's no denying that things that used to be social unacceptable are now part of the norm. People are having dialogue today about things that were mostly unspoken just a few short years ago. And while this exchange of ideas, I believe, is mostly good, there are those that don't understand the idea of consequence.

There are people who try to shut down anyone whose beliefs are opposite of theirs. There are the online bullies who aggressively disagree with others; they spread hate and spew ugliness at even the hint of an opposing point of view.

People spread hate and then act surprised by the consequences, as if they didn't know that their actions would have an outcome.

You have a right to believe what you believe. You even have a right to say what you believe. But when you do, don't be surprised by the outcome. You are free to speak your mind, but not free from the consequences.