Posts Tagged ‘free speech’

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The Maddening Crowd

2009/10/11

I wonder sometimes about the way people choose to communicate with the rest of the world. The internet has been an amazing thing, bringing access and knowledge the world over, in ways I never could have dreamed of as a kid. But it’s also given people a voice without the benefit of having earned it.

It used to be that you had to do something important, make some sacrifice, change the world, something…to get a voice in this world. Rev. Desmond Tutu, Dr. Jonas Saulk, Mahatma Ghandi, Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandella, Golda Meir, Russell Means, Anne Frank, Gen. Colin Powell (Ret), Pres. Jimmy Carter… The list of people who have contributed to this world, making it a better place, whose words I have carefully listened to or read over the years is truly breathtaking.

The gifts and sacrifices those people have made lead us to the world we live in today. A world that is filled with billions of screaming voices, each with something to say, with no one listening. The assault of shouts and declarations I am faced with every day is maddening. There is no discourse, no real debate, just people shouting back and forth, without anyone really willing to hear the other, except to berate them for what they have to say.

I have found myself, many times in the last couple years, jumping eagerly into heated debates with people, simply because they gave me the opportunity to speak and be heard. And that has been unfair to those people. I am so starved for true conversation, real discussion that I simply cannot let go of any opportunity to feel like I can actually communicate with another person. I am eternally grateful for my friends for not beating me into the ground for this, and for still sticking around. Better yet, for the ones who hold the mirror up to me so that I can see what I am doing.

My father has been telling me since I can remember that I was born to argue. I always respond that it is my mother’s I am this way. She will immediately try to deny it, but it is the truth. She raised me to be respectful, yes, but she also taught me not to accept the company line, not go along with the flow simply because that was how it had always been done. She taught me to question things, and to find the answers to satisfy those questions. But she also encouraged me to express my opinions and beliefs, if I so chose, and to defend them, if need be.

So yeah, I was born to argue, but I was also taught to listen and to get all of the facts before I form my position. Is it too much to think other people should do the same thing? I think that’s why those people from the past who were given the opportunity to speak their minds had to prove they had earned it. They were educated and experienced, and they formed their opinions after careful scrutiny and consideration. In a world of instant information gratification, why are there so many willfully ignorant voices screaming to the rafters in order to be heard? With the facts literally at your fingertips, why would you shout half truths and falsehoods simply to support a cause or an issue for no other reason than color of the buttons, or the version of Holy texts, or the financial position, or the color of your costume?

If you want an opinion worthy of listening to, learn how to express it without bellowing it in my face, come to me with facts, support your position with your own words and not some collection of sound bytes from a talking head, speak intelligently and with respect for my opinions & positions, even if you cannot agree with them. Cheap shots, screaming matches, and half truths do not a debate make.

If you truly want to be heard, speak softly, and get your facts straight.

-written by someone honestly trying to understand how to make the world a better place, one person at a time, and starting with themselves.

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