Published in News and Citizen 5-19-15

Free Speech

Back in the mid-1990s I briefly quit the News & Citizen when I had been a reporter for about 10 years, and wrote a piece stating the biggest worry I had for the future of journalism. That worry hasn’t changed in the intervening two decades; it is political correctness in writing.
    The issue has worsened in the last two decades. Political correctness in speech, writing, reporting, and commenting, in my opinion, acutally threatens the First Amendment. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” If Congress can’t make such a law, why should public opinion gag our free speech? Simply – we should not let that happen.
    When I grew up in the mid-20th century I was told this was a free country where you could say or write anything except something equivalent to crying “fire” in a crowded theater. I believe this was the nearly ubiquitous definition of free speech at the time. I also found the definition recently in “Letters from ‘Somewhere . . .’” by Cornelius Granai, Barnes Bay Press, 2000, who served at 19 in WWI and then in WWII at age 46. He is the father of Ed Granai, well known in Vermont politics not so long ago. At any rate, Cornelius was a judge in occupied Italy, and wrote home to his wife on March 22, 1945 about an event one day... “A lieutenant had a young man brought in for agitating a strike... I had to recommend to the lieutenant that he use a little more Americanism. We promised these people free speech... I am jealous of free speech and I want the world to have it – the church, the state, the people – all, each and everyone of us should have the right to speak our free thoughts – not license to insult, to abuse people because of race, color or creed, but a right to express our free will as long as we do not do any physical harm to anyone.”
    This is how the “greatest generation” defined freedom of speech and I placed the italics on the last few words because I believe many of us feel this same way. However, I think perhaps more people than I know actually think we shouldn’t offend anyone with our writing or our speech.
    Well, I beg to differ. I believe I can and will offend lots of folks with what I say and write, now that I will be retired. Therefore, in this new verbally hamstrung world whatever I say can only hurt me, not my employer. I have spent a lifetime in news and am seriously worried that Muslims can do or say whatever they want about Christians and we cannot reply in kind. Why are old men and women being strip searched in airports? It is arguably to show a lack of bias since no old man or woman has been an airport terrorist. Certainly, it is the right of a Jewish woman to hold an event drawing pictures of Allah.  Why was this not a Christian event and why are not similar events being held all over? This is exactly the kind of thing Jewish people should have pointed out before the Holocaust. What is our squeamish, PC, almost unsaid policy stripping us of except honesty and truth?