Free speech isnít dead

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Vice President Mike Pence spoke at the Notre Dame commencement ceremony on Sunday, and several students silently walked out in protest. Some disagreed with the Trump administrationís actions. Some disagreed with the sentiment behind Penceís speech. No matter their reason, they all had a right to do what they did.

Once the story hit social media, I read many comments condemning the students. Itís disrespectful and unpatriotic, someone wrote, for anybody to walk out while the vice president is speaking. Someone else said the act of protest shows how political correctness is ruining America. Another said free speech is most certainly dead.

I disagree with every bit of that. Free speech isnít in its coffin. Itís doesnít even have the flu. Itís alive and well, and the silent protest at Notre Dame is definitive proof of that. Free speech gives us the right to speak out against the government without the fear of retribution. Iím not sure anything exemplifies that more than students walking out of their graduation because they disagree with the vice president.

Iím not singling out the situation with Pence. People have been saying free speech is under attack for quite some time, usually when somebody does something they donít like. Just last year, NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand when the national anthem played. By sitting down, Kaepernick felt he was standing up for those who have been oppressed in our country since it began. Many people didnít see it that way. Why wouldnít Kaepernick stand and salute the flag like heís supposed to? Arenít there better ways for him to protest than by insulting our country? Does free speech only apply when the liberals do it?

Similar questions came up in 2003 when Natalie Maines, lead singer of the Dixie Chicks, told a British audience she was ashamed President George W. Bush is from Texas. Maines was told to shut up and sing, that the opinion of an entertainer wasnít welcome when it comes to politics. Some criticized her for speaking against Bush in a foreign country, as if free speech disappears when Americans travel abroad. Many said she was unpatriotic and they wouldnít listen to her music anymore, which is their right.

Itís our right as Americans to criticize the actions of others and act accordingly. If that means you want to protest President Trump, go for it. If that means you donít want to listen to the Dixie Chicks anymore, throw their albums in the trash. But to be clear, all of this is free speech.

Free speech means you can be the most patriotic person in America, or you can sit out when others say the Pledge of Allegiance. It means you can walk out when someone is giving a speech you donít like. You can let the world know exactly how you feel about our countryís leaders, good or bad.

The next time somebody says something you donít like, you can disagree with that all you want. You canít say freedom of speech is dead, though. If it were, you wouldnít be able to speak your mind in the first place.

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Samantha Jones is associate editor for Carroll County Newspapers. Her email address is Citizen.Editor.Eureka@gmail.com