freedom of expression
Essay

On Peace, Justice and the Unjustified Opinion; Love Thy Hater

As I write these words, CNN is airing video footage of the Deadly Clashes at Racist Rally, while all over social media people are publishing their opinions. Some of those opinions are justified, while many, from both left and right, are unjustified and morally reprehensible.

It breaks my heart that in Charlottesville, Virginia, the expression of opinion led to deadly violence. What went wrong?

I’ll address that in my next post. But we can’t address what went wrong and seek to solve our national problems without working together. And we can’t work together until we agree on what is good and right.

I submit that we ought to begin to move forward toward building a more peaceful and just country by agreeing with our Supreme Court that freedom of expression is “the indispensable condition of nearly every other form of freedom.”

The ACLU has a long history of defending freedom of expression even when one’s opinions are hateful, vile, brainless, and morally questionable. I stand with them, and ask you to kindly consider also standing with them.

Why should we defend the right of haters to hate?

The wisdom of ages makes clear that when we respond to fear and hate with the same, we throw fuel on the fire. Only love douses hate. That’s the spiritual answer. The political answer to the question of why we should defend the right of haters to hate, is that defending everyone’s freedom to express their opinions — both intelligent and stupid — is essential to building a free society. All of the following quotes come from the ACLU’s website. I encourage you to read their whole article.

The ACLU Offers Three Reasons Why Freedom of Expression is Essential to a Free Society

  • 1) We defend freedom of expression because we maintain that every member of society has inherent dignity and worth.
In the ACLU’s words, freedom of expression is “the foundation of self-fulfillment. The right to express one’s thoughts and to communicate freely with others affirms the dignity and worth of each and every member of society, and allows each individual to realize his or her full human potential. Thus, freedom of expression is an end in itself — and as such, deserves society’s greatest protection.”

In other words, this alone is sufficient reason to justify the defense of freedom of expression of anyone’s opinion,  whether that opinion is justified or unjustified. Stupid and morally bankrupt people stop with this reason. Wiser and generous people, however, aim not only to preserve individual freedom, but also to build a free society.

To build a free society, we must attain more knowledge and deeper truth, and we must condemn abuses of power, specifically: excessive use of power; corruption of the powerful; and tyrannical oppression of citizens by those in power.

  • 2)  We defend freedom of expression because we believe the attainment of knowledge and the search for truth are necessary for  justice in peaceful societies.
The ACLU explains freedom of expression is” vital to the attainment and advancement of knowledge, and the search for the truth. The eminent 19th-century writer and civil libertarian, John Stuart Mill, contended that enlightened judgment is possible only if one considers all facts and ideas, from whatever source, and tests one’s own conclusions against opposing views. Therefore, all points of view — even those that are ‘bad’ or socially harmful — should be represented in society’s ‘marketplace of ideas.’

This is why the Ku Klux Klan was given a permit to legally assemble in front of a monument they wish would not be torn down. The ACLU defended their right to assemble, stating, “If we do not come to the defense of the free speech rights of the most unpopular among us, even if their views are antithetical to the very freedom the First Amendment stands for, then no one’s liberty will be secure.” We ought to be more afraid of the government’s suppression of our right to express our opinion, the ACLU believes, than of the people and groups of individuals who hate us. Because in the proper use of government, people may be free to say hateful words, but they will be punished if they engage in conduct that “intimidates, harasses, or threatens another person, even if words are used.”

  • 3) We defend freedom of expression because we condemn government excess, corruption, oppression, and tyranny as unjust and inherently violent.
Freedom of expression is “necessary to our system of self-government and gives the American people a “checking function” against government excess and corruption. If the American people are to be the masters of their fate and of their elected government, they must be well-informed and have access to all information, ideas and points of view. Mass ignorance is a breeding ground for oppression and tyranny.”

In other words, the work of the wise and mature members of a society is to concern themselves with establishing and maintaining just systems of education in order to create a literate, well-informed citizenry immune to propaganda. Because literate citizens are able to separate fact from justified opinion from unjustified opinion. And those who seek to oppress and tyrannize the masses for their own gains will inevitably resort to the suppression of freedom of expression and the use of propaganda to achieve their despicable ends.

Today I’ve been wracking my brain with the incessant question “what can I do?” I’m old enough to realize I can do nothing to change the world. But I can do the most important thing in the world to change myself and thereby make a significant difference in the world.

I can love the haters. For many people this seems ridiculously idealistic. But most of the people I consider my friends and kindred spirits (and pretty much everyone who cares enough about me to read my opinions) believe with me that love really is the answer to our problems.

So please join me. Let’s all seek with all our hearts and minds and souls and strength to learn what love really looks like, and then to give love at every opportunity, to every person. It’s possible. Let’s do it.

Love Thy Hater

freedom of expression

Photo credit: Runs With Scissors via VisualHunt.com / CC BY-NC-ND

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