In 1978, when Nazis wanted to march down the streets of predominantly Jewish Skokie, I can remember my Jewish grandfather saying, “they have a right to do it” while wearing a funny smile and shaking his head.
The man who dropped out of medical school to serve in WWII, a Navy veteran who received a purple heart for serving on a ship that was sunk in battle, believed in freedom — even the freedom of those who hated him because of who he was and wanted to march literally down his street to say it.
The ACLU agreed, rushing to the defense of the Nazis in the name of free speech.
Today, that same freedom is under attack.
My entire life I have remembered the words of Ronald Reagan, who famously said:
Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction, we didn’t pass it on to our children in the blood stream. The only way they can inherit the freedom we have known is if we fight for it, protect it, defend it, and then hand it to them with the well-taught lessons of how they in their lifetime must do the same.
– Ronald Reagan, 1961
And my entire life I confess that I never really understood them. Until now.
This new effort underway to criminalize speech is nothing but a tool to win political elections, and the power that comes along with them.
And if this effort is successful, we will lose our very freedom.
If white supremacists are not allowed free speech, then who is?
If racists cannot own websites, then who can?
More importantly, who decides?
The thought of supporting a white supremacist or racist is, to me, totally and completely foul and contrary to my Christian faith as well as my sense of right and wrong.
But to prohibit anyone from exercising free speech is, by definition, to prohibit free speech.
And to do this we must hand our rights of freedom over to a group of government officials to define what exactly freedom is.
At that point, freedom no longer exists.
The attacks on Donald Trump are nothing more than an attempt to prohibit his freedom of speech. Should Trump say something, or fail to say something, then a media effort is launched in order to suppress his ability as president to do or say anything at all.
It’s up to us to fight back.
As much as I do not agree with Black Lives Matter or racist groups that advance the agenda of any one skin color over another, I would be horrified if their rights to express themselves were taken away.
An effort to disallow Black Lives Matter from having a website or a Facebook account would shake me to the core.
We must be more active in defending free speech. We must read about the atrocities of third world dictators who murder in order to suppress speech. And we must call out political ideologues who pretend to exercise freedom of speech while serving only to stop others from exercising theirs.
Or else, in the words of Reagan, we will we spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what is was once like in America when men were free.
photo credit: Gage Skidmore Ronald Reagan painting via photopin (license)