Free speech should not engender ill will

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The lifeblood of liberty is free speech.

Without it, humankind is doomed to compromise, enslavement, even destruction.

Everyday, history turns another chapter in which lands, realms, societies and the minds of furtive individuals miss glorious opportunities because they do not heed and hail %u2013 but parse and discriminate against %u2013 this most important and prideful of birthrights.

All that we hold precious we owe to the freedom of speech, a force so vital that men and women have surrendered themselves in order to protect its grace while inscribing every page of the tumultuous book of life with the blood of their supreme sacrifices.

Make no mistake, every breathing, thinking human being has an earthly duty to analyze and critique the world in which they live and have a stake. The road to open discourse should be traveled by everyone, everywhere, even if their feet do not fall in step with others. Readers and responders of this column know that better than most.

Yet, speaking one’s mind can come at an extraordinary price and engender tremendous ill will, as witnessed by the planet’s persecuted who remain tortured, imprisoned, blacklisted or discredited sometimes for just opening a dialogue about the world’s malignancies %u2013 an ongoing word journey which should never take a backseat to the dolor of the distressed.

Surprisingly, it can even be received with resentment in the Free World’s most civilized nation, the United States of America, which beckons the disenfranchised and disillusioned with its largesse of liberties, and in the First Amendment of its Constitution encourages that special connection between the mind, heart and tongue. To the chagrin of others, the supreme law of this great land respects and protects the expressive jewels and jargons of all residents, irrespective of their citizenships.

Indeed, the sanctity of personal voice and thought is firmly rooted in international human rights law.

“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to uphold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers,” cites Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which in its preamble calls for the “...advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief, and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people.”

At this stage in our human evolution, we should not be wary of demonstrating the courage of our convictions by openly discussing the ills that threaten to overthrow our hard-won successes.

Early civilizations flourished because they appreciated the elbowroom offered by free speech, and dissolved into oblivion only when they jeopardized their fidelity to freedom. Some have even metamorphosed from being sources of inspiration into hollow shells of their former selves, forgetting or foregoing their optimistic origins in favor of useless, baseless fundamentalism.

The ancient Athenians believed that the powers of exhortation were not to be stifled, while in Islamic ethics freedom of speech was glorified by the Caliph Umar in what became to be known as the Rashidun “golden age” of the 7th century, igniting the flame of progressive intellect throughout North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and the Iranian highlands.

Archibald MacLeish [1892-1982], a poet, playwright, Librarian of Congress and Assistant Secretary of State under President Franklin Roosevelt, famously uttered, “Once you permit those who are convinced of their own superior rightness to censor and silence and suppress those who hold contrary opinion, just at that moment the citadel has been surrendered.”

Ultimately, what unites us is not our color, creed, acumen or religion but our primitive need to be who we are by communicating what we mean %u2013 freely.

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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