So, I had to give a speech today for speech class. Thankfully, it was my last speech for the class (because who honestly likes giving speeches for a grade?). I figured that since it has to do with free speech, I should share it. Enjoy!
Note: I had to meet certain requirements as this was an assignment, and this had to be cut down from my original outline (and thus doesn’t have a lot of my personal examples as a result) because of time restraints, and I am transcribing it.
You probably remember the last election as much as I do, and I have this one friend who probably has the polar opposite opinion as I do on a lot of issues, and following the election, I was concerned that he would jump to certain conclusions, and in order to make sure he didn’t do so, I decided to have a conversation with him. Now, because he is Muslim, I used the following analogy. I said to him, “It is just as wrong for you to assume that every Trump voter is a bigot as it is for me to assume you’re a terrorist because you’re Muslim. Fortunately, he agreed with my logic, and we are still friends to this day, and though we still don’t like each other’s opinions, we can still respect our differences.
However, in today’s society, this is not always the case. You have people on both sides of the aisle who resort to calling people on the other side names without even thinking about the thought process behind the other side’s opinions, and this just leads to a break down in communication that doesn’t solve any problems. Therefore, it is my claim that this negative name calling actually hinders free speech, and I am going to show you this through a transition from negative name calling to respect.
So, I mentioned in my introduction that there’s this thing called negative name calling, and in negative name calling, some person decides to use a negative name to label a person with a different opinion, and the person who is labelled feels a perceived hatred or alienation because the person who labelled them put them in a box with whatever label they decided to assign that person and isolated them from the rest of society without even trying to understand the whys behind that opinion. Additionally, that person that is labelled feels as if they have had their opinion brushed to the side, and that it’s not even being considered, and since it’s not even being considered, they think, “You know, what even is the point of me even speaking if no one is going to give me the time to speak and listen to why I think the way I do?” You don’t believe me? I have several examples, and I would like to bring up one in particular. From a 2017 article called, “Sanders Defends Trump Voters: I Don’t Think They’re Racists, Sexists, or Homophobes” (my note: I believe I mentioned this article in an earlier post), Bernie Sanders explains why he thinks the Democrats lost the election, and in his explanation he implies that the negative name calling that went on–whether it was deplorable, homophobe, xenophobe, bigot, whatever–basically scared away potential Democratic voters, and I don’t know about you, but if some politician decided to call me and other fellow voters some name just because of the way we thought, I wouldn’t consider voting for them.
You may not think this is a big issue, but chew on this statistic: From a 2015 article called, “Campus Free Speech Poll: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly”, it says that 50% of college students are afraid to share their political opinions–and this applied to both sides. When you hear about this, it becomes clear that this is an issue because it implies that students are afraid that if they say, “I believe this…” or “I believe that…” that people are automatically going to jump to conclusions about them.
Fortunately, there is a solution, and if you’re Christian, you’ve heard it from Matthew 22:39, and it says, “And the second is like it, ‘love your neighbor as your self’.”. However, if you’re not Christian, you’ve probably heard it as the old adage, “Treat others as you’d like to be treated.”. The reason I think this is a good solution to the problem that this society faces is because our opinions are often influenced by what happens in our lives, and you can’t always assume you know what’s happened in other people’s lives. For example, say, someone’s child was killed by illegal immigrants. They might think that stricter immigration policies are what’s best for this country, or you might have someone who has a relative who has a debilitating illness, and they’ve exhausted all their treatment options besides medical marijuana; therefore, they might think that legalization of medical marijuana is the best option. Once you break down these borders between people, it suddenly becomes clear that just because someone has a certain opinion doesn’t mean they are a bad person. The reasons behind them might just enlighten you that they actually are a caring person.
So, in conclusion, I’m not asking you to change your political opinions. I’m not asking for conservatives to become liberals or liberals to become conservatives or even libertarians to join to Green Party or vice versa. What I am asking is that you respect people–all people–not just the ones you agree with. And in conclusion, I’d like to leave you with the words of Maya Angelou, and she said: “In diversity, there is beauty and strength.”. So next time you encounter someone with a different political opinion than you, I encourage you to remember that political opinions are a part of the diversity of our world.