Have you ever watched a debate? The kinds where both parties are so emotionally intertwined in their own philosophies that they become (perhaps unintentionally) closed minded? It’s a dangerous place to be. Not only will you not get your points through to the other person, you close yourself off from learning. Your mind may not be changed, but it can fortify your own stance and give you more understanding of your opposer. This article is not about debates, but like debates sometimes turn out, we as a society have become closed off. We want tolerance and freedoms, yet close off our opposers and try to shut them up. That is not what free speech is. That is not what the founding fathers had in mind. That is not the America hundreds of men and women died to establish. This is what free speech really means.
This is one of the key parts to living in a society with free speech. People have to understand that there will be differences of opinions. No one is going to think the exact same things as you, and that means that you have to be respectful of what others think and feel. This does not mean agreeing or being passive about your own feelings and thoughts. It just means being kind.
Listening is not as easy as it sounds. Most people think they are great listeners, but when someone talks to them, they’re always thinking of what to say next. Listening is not just about hearing the words people are saying, but actually paying attention and learning from the words they are speaking. The reason listening is important is because you may learn something. Even if your views aren’t impacted by someone else’s words, you can learn more about who that person is. This is important to free speech because often, we judge people too quickly. Judging does not promote a healthy, free speech environment,
This goes along with listening. Just because you have the freedoms of a free speech society, that does not mean you should always exercise that right. There is a time and place for everything. There may be moments where your opinions are better kept inside.
There is always something to learn. There is always a way to improve, and this is especially true when exercising free speech. We should always look to learn from each other. If you make a point to listen and learn, it’s much harder to get offended or hurt by opposing views. You grow more sensitive to the situation and are able to hold a more respectful conversation.
This goes without saying. To reiterate, no one person is in 100 percent agreement with another individual. Since that is the case, we need to accept the fact that people will think and live differently. It simply means being tolerant and choosing to love people versus fight.
It’s sad to see how people treat free speech. Some people act entitled to always speak their minds and pick fights. Free speech was meant to unify. It was founded on the idea that while people may and will oppose each other, we can still be one country. Free speech wasn’t made to divide but to create an environment that allows people to pursue things they wouldn’t be able to elsewhere. It is possible to find a balance between the freedoms of the 1st Amendment while also caring about people and not being ignorant to the idea that certain comments may not be appropriate. Let’s start being a society where this is possible.