This won’t come as a surprise to anyone, but I love the First Amendment. Without it, I wouldn’t have been able to work in a profession that I love for the past 23 years.
But I’ve found that even though its stated purpose — to allow free speech and expression — is a simple concept, some people don’t fully grasp it. Early in my life, I don’t think even I understood it completely.
Last week, for example, I wrote a couple of pieces about presidential candidate and “hate visionary” Donald Trump. Those pieces generated a lot of comments from authors who were upset with me for what I had to say about their candidate.
A couple of selections (case, spelling and punctuation are left mostly as was written):
“I do have an issue with not being able to use the words ‘colored,’ ‘Oriental’ I’m married to an Oriental woman ... who doesn’t mind being Oriental. … Why should we be so politically correct? ... ”
“Your doing exactly what we expected you’d do. You ridicule Mr. Trumb because he speaks what we already know, that the political systems is ridged.”
“Who’s this Charlie Deitch? … clueless.”
“Since when is it hateful to want to keep out those who daily proclaim ‘death to America’? How can anyone, of any political persuasion, not think that Reagan was the best president of the 20th century.”
And finally, my favorite: “Obvious hard left leaning reporter who thinks Obama is great. With his weight problem he would make a good Micheal Moore twin.”
The individuals who made these comments are absolutely entitled to say whatever they like. In fact, as much as that last guy was trying to tear me down, I agree with everything he wrote. I do lean left; I am fat (although I prefer ‘husky’ or ‘robust’); and the Michael Moore thing, I take as a compliment. But what I think a lot of people fail to realize, and probably the thing I despise most about Trump’s campaign, is that most people think free speech means you can say whatever you want with complete impunity. But just like those old bumper stickers say: Freedom isn’t free.
Free speech comes with costs. Yes, you are free to say whatever you like, but sometimes that speech comes with consequences. Yes, you can say anything you want, but that doesn’t mean your boss can’t take offense and fire you over it. It doesn’t mean that people can’t write hate mail and take you to task for what you say.
Most people who have written have given me crap for saying that Donald Trump shouldn’t spew all the hateful rhetoric that has been flying out of his mouth for months. In the same breath, they tell me to shut up. It’s contradictory, but it’s the way Donald Trump has been operating and its why he’s successful. He’s playing on the anger of people who don’t feel they’ve been able to exercise their freedom to say hateful things about minorities or other groups who don’t fall in line with their way of thinking. Trump acts like he’s promoting and exercising free speech. But what he’s doing is exploiting it for his own gains. Donald Trump tells one lie after another and folks, even though they’re told it’s a lie, continue to yell that it’s protected speech. It’s maddening.
The fact is, there are consequences to saying whatever you want publicly. For me, I know that I will receive more hate mail, negative comments and fat jokes. I’m fine with that, and I accept those consequences because the good outweighs the bad. But Donald Trump and his supporters had better be prepared to pay up as well. At some point, the Trump Train is going to go completely off the tracks. Trump, his wall and all of his nonsense are going to be nothing but a bad memory, and all that will be left are scores of hateful words written in online comments sections and on social media. Or else I’m wrong, and Trump will win, and we’ll have to deal with the consequences of that.