Monday, January 10, 2011

When did we stop knowing how to disagree?

When I was growing up, my father would invite discussions about anything and everything.  We had long conversations at the dinner table, working in the garden, and on car trips.  We often disagreed.

It didn't mean that there wasn't respect and limits on both sides of our arguments.

What happened to the ability to disagree without deadly violence and hatred?  Have we all turned into some strange brand of extremists overnight? All discussions end when threatened with the barrel of a gun.

In research on childhood bullying, there is the theory that training bystanders to act when they see this kind of belittling and controlling behavior has a greater impact than trying to empower the bullied or counsel the bully.

In the aftermath of the shootings in Arizona, I heard about a legislator attempting to make symbolic threats illegal.  Just as punishing bullies doesn't eliminate bullying, making threats illegal won't stop threats.  We have to step up and confront hate and violent rhetoric when we see it.  We need to call people on it.  Let them know it's not okay.  And that includes our friends and family, our legislators, our press and our pundits.

It is *our* responsibility to safeguard free speech.

That's what being a citizen means.

And having the freedom of speech means there is a responsibility that goes with it.

Something we seem to have collectively forgotten as a society and a nation:  there are no freedoms without responsibility.

Provocative hate speech is not free speech.  It is bullying.

I am tired of it.

Left or right; conservative or liberal, hate is hate.  And we can tell the people around us that it's not acceptable anymore.


  1. Just tweeted and FB'd links to your post. Hope others read it and find it as moving, actionable, and ...

    There is probably one word for what I'm trying to say, but I think you get my meaning.