I was reading this article on whether trump will assault the freedom of speech in America. I laughed a little because it looks the American people have already eroded the freedom of speech for each other. Why don’t I see Trump supporters posting on facebook (I know some do but what are the rest afraid off?) Hillary supporters and Bernie supporters had not only the luxury of showing their support and putting those bumper stickers on but they also went after the Trump supporters. If you were or are open about supporting Trump, people are ready to bash you. You would be a bigot, woman hater, uneducated, blind, deplorable or a wanker who masturbates to anime(1:49).” If you would rather not be called names you would keep quiet of your support of Trump. But isn’t that a lack of freedom of speech? You are not free to speak not because the federal or local police will come after you, but the social or liberal police will eat you alive.
But if you think about it, this lack of freedom of speech has only recently spread to this political arena. Otherwise it has been incubating in other parts of American life for a while. In fact, I remember discussing this in 2012 with a friend of mine.
To fully grasp this please forget for a moment the time we are in now where Trump and politics are on our mouths daily. Think of the times when we were talking about the Dakota Access pipeline, the global warming, the shootings in schools, and the Hollywood so white scandals and the like. Focus on this for a second and then proceed.
In a country were the media is lauded for its freedom to speak and people enjoy insulting powerful people, one would think freedom of speech has come to roost. Online hacker organizations like Anonymous take it to a whole new level not to mention Wiki-leaks. On top of this you have comedians left write and center making fun of politicians, celebrities and other powerful figures in the nation from Saturday Night Live to John Oliver, Steven Colbert and my favorite Trevor Noah. But the USA really lacks freedom of speech in the manner that other African Countries have it. It seems that apparent freedom of speech or apparent lack of it is merely and obviously apparent.
Before we move forward I wish to lay down two maxims if you will:
- I detest what you write [say], but I would give my life to make it possible for you to continue to write[speak]. – Voltaire
- Freedom of speech is only freedom as long as it is a guarantee of freedom after speech. – Me 😉
These two lay the foundations of freedom of speech. 2) is the definition of the right to freedom of speech and 1) is the responsibility of those who uphold this right for themselves and for others.
And yes, my claim is that the United States of America has no freedom of speech but the majority of African Countries do. Now I must make my case.
When I landed in the USA a few years back I was amazed at how progressive the country was. And I am not talking about technology or politics. A handful of us live hyper consciously in technology or politics. But most of us live in a social world full of issues with love, kissing, parties, friendships, sex, marriage, kids, school, movies, sports, work, and relationships with coworkers. In a nutshell, a biggest part of our lives is relational or social and it is with the people surrounding us not those in Washington DC unless you live there. It is in these relationships that our true freedom is exercised, and in this case, freedom of speech.
I was a progressive in Zimbabwe but when I landed in the US I realized I was a moderate when it came to social progressiveness. I was not yet given entirely to same sex marriage and was surely half way across the bridge to feminism’s Terabithia and along this bridge I was sitting at a rest area of all things. Not only this but I was still able to distinguish between races, was anchored in stereotypes, and also did not at all see anyone’s pet as vaguely humanistic and deserving of my desirable affection. These were my personal views and preferences. I also did not like Obama that much and thought he was an awesome person but not my guy.
I got to talk with Americans around and quickly found that politics was not encouraged at the table but that people in general were okay discussing politics as long as an effort was made to remain agreeable. They would ask me about Zimbabwe and some would make a point to say, “In Zimbabwe, this political discussion would be whispered right, and we could get in trouble if we were caught.” We would laugh, and they would say, “Welcome to the land of freedom.” And by that they would mostly mean freedom of speech. I found myself getting comfortable with this freedom of speech. We would banter about this government, this president, that policy and so on. And though we shared different opinions we remained on friendly terms (pre-2016 election era).
Then as a man in the land of freedom I began to share my other opinions. I shared my stage at accepting equal marriage or my views on feminism and trouble ensued. It wasn’t simply the arguments people tried to start. It was what happened after the attempted arguments. Pet lovers would stop interacting with me as friends when I said things like, “I wish people would love each other as much as they love their dogs.” Or when I said, “I feel affection is wasted on pets when there are so many people hurting in the world.” Or when they spoiled their dog and bought it a Christmas present or threw their cat a birthday party and I said things like, “I am sure someone in Africa would love to be a dog in America. In fact someone in America would prefer to be e pet than a homeless person.” Feminists would look at me with distaste for weeks and I could sense the hostile atmosphere around the same sex marriage supporters. Pet lovers would vehemently respond that they had worked for their money and could spend it on what they wanted. I was so surprised that I was no longer feeling comfortable or safe in my environment and was holding my mouth more often. I was measuring not my words but my opinions and was not able to express myself freely. In fact at times people would say things like, “That’s unbelievable that they would not let this man marry that man. Isn’t it unfair?” I could not say that I was an undecided voter, no, I simply lied and said I agreed.
It was preposterous to think certain things, bigotry to hold certain opinions, and villainous to be of a certain mind. People were not simply using social pressure to police speech but were policing opinion of all things. I could say all I want about Obama and could even call him names. The government police force would not come after me and most of the social police force would leave me be (pre-2016 election era). But I was supposed to believe in this equality and that thing about pets and so on and so forth. I thought to myself, which freedom would I rather have: And without much thought, I knew I wanted to be free in my own skin and in my environment. I did not care about Obama, in fact we talked about him when there was a shooting or around election time or when there was a real major speech. But love, sex, marriage, friends, pets, those were our daily bread and my opinion was not only unwelcome, but had dire consequences after being expressed. This to me did not at all sound like freedom of speech.
As time went on I learned about Chick-fil-A and other cake stores etc. Yes, if you have a huge business the social police will make sure that you suffer for your freedom of speech. People were petitioning that people stop eating there because of their opinions about same sex marriage. In some confusing manner both actions “voicing the opinion” and “victimizing the voicer” were deemed freedom of speech. Imagine in an office, there are two people who work on commission and their job is to sign certain papers. If one of these two says they do not support same sex marriage and then the rest of the company starts going to the other person alone would this be fair or would it be termed discrimination or victimization: In short, a lack of freedom after speech.
A lack of freedom AFTER speech is exactly the opposite of freedom of speech. Idi Amin a famous dictator once said, “You have the freedom of speech, but I cannot guarantee your freedom after speech.” In the USA you can speak all you like about some public figures and the government and your freedom after speech is guaranteed (again pre-2016 election era). However, there are certain topics where your freedom after speech is not guaranteed because the social police – everyday people – will come after you and make you suffer for your words. (if it was a handful of people it would be understandable but a whole slew of people who deem their opinions supreme and right and go on to not only disagree but to insult and threaten.)
For me this is the violation of Freedom of speech. The government as a formal group is not coming after anyone. However, the governed are moving in for the kill. And this does not sound right to me.
Contrast this with the discussions I had in Africa with my friends about feminism and same sex marriage. Like I said I was a progressive over there. I was a huge advocate of live and let live. And being a Christian nation I got to encourage not judging because the book said judge not the ye may not be judged. Some would argue that they were simply pointing out people’s wrong like Jesus did. And I would retort that Jesus could read minds and probably new all people around him to the core unlike any human can. And with that he had the license to call out anyone. People would rarely win those arguments and in so doing I fought the war for people to live the way they chose, to believe what they believed if it did not hurt others around.
In Zimbabwe and most of Africa, many of us can discuss what we want besides the politics. Which is sort of the opposite of my experience in the USA. And now that disease where the masses silence others because they disagree has spilled over into the political arena. Now it is censorship by the masses. I remember someone describing Zimbabwe’s stance on same sex marriage. A referendum was held where most the country refused to have this as a right in the constitution. This American activist called it tyranny of the many. Then later the same process yielded a result she wanted and she called it true democracy because the majority had favored her opinion. This manner of repurposing words for convenience is exactly what is going in the USA. When people want to insult, and victimize someone for speaking out, they call their form victimization freedom of speech. When people like Donald Trump insults and victimizes other’s, they call it bullying. And thus, they censor others and deny the right they claim to want to defend against Donald Trump – freedom of speech.
So there we go, Africa may be easy to save. Remove a few people in power and freedom of speech in society will be added to freedom of speech in the political arena. But the USA is in trouble, it must change a huge number of people-something that is truly difficult and can only be achieved through measures beyond my scope…
Do I hear something?
Life is a misery to be endured until we die. Even those with terminal illnesses find times of respite and laugh and enjoy their lives. So too is mortality a terminal illness. We will all die, I for one am glad this is so. But before that day I will define myself, I will not go without giving everything I have got, and I will love with all my heart.
I am proud to be an Afropolitan; a world citizen of African descend. I am called Allen and I love writing, eating, and singing in the shower!
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