Use free speech responsibly |

Use free speech responsibly


Don’t talk religion or politics. That was one of the first lessons I learned about getting along as an adult. If the other parties don’t agree with you, you will never change their minds and there is a good chance that the exchange will result in hard feelings. If they already agree with you, it may support your self-righteous belief that you are absolutely right and the opposition are absolutely wrong — and probably bad people in the bargain — but it is not a positive motivator for being civil to your fellow men and women, regardless of differences.

That was well over 50 years ago, and nothing has changed. Except most people I run across today insist on talking — or writing about — religion and politics anyway. When I’ve asked why, I’ve received basically three responses: free speech, they are not communicating about religion or politics, and conversations are important to resolving differences.

Americans have a constitutional right to free speech, but I believe we have a corresponding obligation to use it judiciously. My thought is, if you wouldn’t say something to a person’s face and be prepared to deal with an unwelcome response, don’t write it, pure and simple.

I’ve heard many denials, but don’t kid yourself. If you insist on lecturing or preaching on a topic, it is likely because of your politics or religion. People are not having a conversation when they are talking past, belittling, demonizing, or screaming at each other, in person or print.

Carl Meier