How are Free Speech and Human Rights Connected?
Sometimes I hesitate to write about matters that truly touch my conscience when it comes to the law, because the right to free speech carries with it the right to be on the receiving end of the free speech of others. Not a day goes by that we don’t see our “free” speech laden with half-baked truths, all out lies, media spin or even just good intentions run amok. We can’t control how others will interpret what we say, but we know they have the right to say what they want too.
Despite all the free speech I’d rather not hear, I am grateful for this fundamental right to express ourselves and the rule of law that forms the bedrock of our society. We can thank the vigilance of our ancestors; with their courage to come to a new world and find a new way. Take a trip to the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. and read the walls. You’ll see what I mean.
As a nation we tout ourselves as standard-bearers for these freedoms, and yet as a people we often fall short. Take a look at Guantanamo. Or, if that’s too tough to think about, just pick up any newspaper and read about the dishonesty and failings of our political and business leaders. We are often let down by their lies, but we are free to express our outrage and hopefully we can out number them with our collective voices.
Recently I came upon a news report about the filming of a legal execution in the Mideast. The woman continued to desperately proclaim her innocence as she was struck three times by a swordsman clad in white, who wiped his blade clean when she was finally silenced. The same day, here at home, our courts were busy deciding on the most humane lethal injections in death penalty cases.
Justice with a capital “J” can take time and struggle. But the underpinnings of our legal system enable us to imagine a just society.
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