“The right to freedom of speech does not include the right to libel, slander, and now bully people into submission, nor does it include a license to abuse someone who is different to us.” Sr Joan Chittister
Sr Joan is an activist for empowering women and redefining spirituality. She is outspoken and challenges many of the accepted truths of the day, including the idea that men alone can speak for Jesus and God within the church. She is considered part of the liberal left because her views stand in opposition to a male-dominated system. Sr Joan is interesting, full of spunk, and fiercely passionate about women in the church, human rights, and peace. In 2015, she revealed where her passions were born. She and her mother were the victims of an abusive father and husband. Adversity birthed a leader and champion.
The Constitution guarantees us the right to freedom of speech, the right to express one’s ideas and opinions without censorship, restraint, or fear of retribution. With that freedom comes implied responsibility. All Americans are guaranteed the right to freedom of speech, not just some. Scrolling through Facebook reveals the gross lack of responsibility associated with the right to free speech.
If anything, the COVID crisis has brought out the best and worst of the human-animal. Every day we hear stories of those who think of others first, help others in need, and put their lives on the line in the face of a little-understood killer. On the flip side, social media is saturated with unnecessarily rude and sarcastic responses to the opinions of others. Why do we believe one’s right to free speech is more important than another’s? We preach against cyber-bullying to children and are willing participants in the same against others.
Opinions can be defined in several ways. Two definitions of opinion are “a belief or conclusion held with confidence but not substantiated by positive knowledge” or “a judgment based on special knowledge and given by an expert”. At this point, most of what we think we know about COVID-19 is still an opinion. We know it is a coronavirus, and we know it kills. What we know, or think we know, is ever-changing, sometimes hour to hour, and daily for sure. What we think we know today may be proven wrong tomorrow.
No one person has all the answers. It truly takes a village, but a village who can listen and thoughtfully respond. Exercise your freedom of speech, but do so being mindful of others. Sticks and stones may break my bones – but words can truly hurt me…..