Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Freedom of Expression

Hi remarkable communicators,

I have an awesome tracking tool for this blog that allows me to see where my "hits" are coming from -- that is, which countries in the world my audience comes from.

Amazingly, in the past month I have had dozens of viewers visit Remarkable Messaging from all over the globe, including the UK, China,  Malaysia, Germany (hi Pete!), Singapore, Russia and Ukraine.

So to all my far-flung readers, I want to say: we are having a wonderful Independence Day here in the United States.

  • Local New York news radio is focusing on the "cooling centers" scattered around the city, safety tips for the elderly and infirm during today's hot temperatures, the Nathan's hot dog eating contest at Coney Island, and the Macy's fireworks display on the Hudson River tonight.
  • In national news, the presidential campaign is in full battle mode.
  • Human interest stories include barbecue grilling tips, fireworks safety, and appreciation of veterans groups.
  • The health care debate is still as hot as ever.  "Tax, or penalty?" Discussions are all over the dial on talk radio stations.
  • Feature stories are showing repair crews from as far away as Canada converging on the Mid Atlantic states and people griping about utility companies being too slow in restoring power after a powerful thunderstorm hit the Washington, D.C area some days ago. 
  • We are mourning the death yesterday of a beloved TV and movie personality, Andy Griffith, and remembering his contributions.
This may not sound like an especially uplifting collection of communications.  But to me, it's fantastic.  Because we have a country where anyone can get on a camera and say what they think about anything.  We are deeply divided much of the time, but always united in our conviction that by golly, we should be able to say whatever we feel is important to say.

Freedom of speech is a concept we take very seriously here in America.  No one will arrest you for bad-mouthing the president.  You won't get thrown in jail for singing the wrong song or displaying the wrong slogan on your T shirt.  You can print a flyer about anything, pass it out on the street corner to anyone, and your family won't get threatened.  

On the other hand, if you attack someone or vandalize their property because you don't like their race, religion or sexual orientation, you WILL be in trouble -- because they have freedom to express, and live out, their identity and beliefs just as much as you do.  Even so, you won't be pulled down the street by a mob and beaten.  You'll get some cops at your door and a summons to appear before a court.  Your case will be tried with a jury of your peers doing all the heavy lifting about guilt, innocence, and/or punishment.  

There are lots of things wrong with America, of course.  But a lot of things are right.  Our standards of freedom can seem too excessive at some points, too restrictive at others.  But the point is, freedom itself is still a bedrock non-negotiable for Americans.  

On our Independence Day, 2012, this country is still celebrating, squabbling, debating, singing, complaining, and rhapsodizing.  And precious little of that conversation is ever subdued by fear of reprisal.  Because we have a right to say what we want to say, doggone it.  And say it we do.  

As communicators, let's take a moment today to be grateful for every country in the world that allows freedom of speech. And let's say a prayer for those countries that don't.  

Oops, maybe not.  There are some public venues in our Fourth of July festivities today where a prayer from the podium would not be permitted.  Civil liberties legislation has seen to that. 

Well, the debate continues.  What constitutes freedom of speech, and when do you have to be silenced for infringing on others' sense of freedom?  Boundaries keep shifting, differences keep fomenting.  The point is, debate IS allowed, and laws ARE possible to change, and the political process IS owned by the people.

God bless America -- and help us cherish our freedom of speech enough to keep arguing about it.   


  1. Happy Independence Day! Ours in Singapore is also coming up this August 9th. Freedom of speech in Singapore is of not the same level as in the US, but it is slowly progressing as can be seen by the movies and books allowed to be published around here.

    PS: I used to live in Boston, MA, and I've enjoyed every July 4th celebrations by the Charles River and the awesome fireworks displays :-)

    1. Thanks, Ronian,

      Glad to hear that your corner of the world is enjoying greater freedom. And I'm glad you feel free to contribute here! (I wonder how much the blogosphere has prompted increased liberty of expression around the world?)

      Your Boston Fourth of July memories sound great. John Williams directing the Boston Pops' 1812 Overture with fireworks roaring overhead -- you can't get more American than that. Thanks for sharing that wonderful picture!