You Have the Right to Remain Offensive

"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."
-Unknown; usually attributed to Voltaire
This past Saturday was Independence Day. I must say, I wasn't quite expecting it to turn out how it did. Last month, I wouldn't have seen anything strange about it. But now, Facebook has exploded. I've seen it said several times, "my news feed looks like a war broke out between the Confederates and a skittles factory." Mine looks similar, but I've seen many other posts as well. I saw an article just the other day about a feminist who thinks the standard bathroom signs are offensive, because the girls are wearing skirts instead of pants. This got me thinking about what type of country we live in, as opposed to what type of country we should live in. And I've realized that somebody will always be offended.

By this I mean two things. The first, that there will always be something else that somebody will label as offensive. Today it's restroom signs, which are supposedly sexist. Tomorrow will white T-shirts be declared racist? What about books? Is someone going to say that the pages are white and the black letters do all the work? Yes, these examples seem extreme, even ridiculous. But I would have previously listed restroom signs among them. I even heard of one person who suggested that all Caucasians should commit mass suicide, as though simply being born with light skin is a crime. It's gotten out of hand. And somebody will always find something to be offended about.

The second application is that in any decision, there is a winner and a loser. For this, we'll take a look at the Confederate flag. Many people have deemed this flag racist and offensive. However, those who support the flag claim otherwise. While I'm sure there are some racists who use the flag to support slavery (though I say this only because of the sheer number of people in the United States,) I have not yet met someone like this. I have friends who claim the flag to represent a southern heritage. Still more take it as a sign of freedom of speech. And these same people are offended by the LGBT flag. So in a situation like this, what happens? What do we do about it? If we allow the Confederate flag, people who are against it will be offended. If we ban it, people who support it will be offended. The answer, of course, is provided in the first amendment of the constitution.

In America, we (supposedly) have freedom of speech. And while we certainly shouldn't go out of our way to offend people, we also can't ban them from something simply because it offends us. The Confederate flag is considered offensive to some, but to those who use it, it isn't meant to be. If the Confederate flag is to be banned, then anything offensive must be banned. And who decides what offensive means? I find it offensive to be banned from speaking what I believe to be the truth. Someone will always be offended. Taking offense is based on emotions. And in these days, we must defend our right to the freedom of speech more vigilantly than ever before. Not by banning what's "offensive," whether that's the Confederate flag, the LGBT flag, or any other flag, but by keeping censorship away from our rights.
"I’m not going to censor myself to comfort your ignorance."
-Jon Stewart

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