Archive for August, 2012

…and I’m beginning to think that isn’t an accident.

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That’s the text of the 1st amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America. It’s a list of things Congress cannot do. Pretty straight forward, right? Apparently not. I would not be surprised to find that this text is the second-most misinterpreted piece of writing in history, behind the Christian Bible.

I guess I should start with the speech portion. Lots of examples recently of people invoking the 1st amendment where it really is not warranted. I’ll do the others later.

The first amendment says this: “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, etc.” What does that mean? Well, Congress is the branch of the government responsible for creating the laws by which US citizens are governed. This amendment prohibits Congress from making or enforcing any laws curbing the right of citizens to say what they wish. It means, essentially, you cannot be jailed or otherwise persecuted by the government for what you say.

What does this NOT mean?

1) It does not mean people aren’t allowed to disagree with you.

2) It does not mean people aren’t allowed to tell you they disagree with you.

3) It does not mean that people aren’t allowed to choose not to spend money on your products or services if they disagree with you.

4) It does not mean that people aren’t allowed to encourage their friends or other people to not spend money on your products or services if they disagree with you.

5) It does not mean that you cannot be fired for what you say.

Regarding the first and second points: There are so many people who, in a debate, will scream, “It’s my opinion! I’m entitled to my opinion! I have freedom of speech!” The don’t seem to understand that, um…no one is violating their freedom of speech. They can’t. Literally can’t. They do not have that power. No one does. Freedom of speech means you can say whatever you like. It does not mean that you can expect not to hear backlash if what you’ve said was wrong or especially shitty. Or both. You see, like you, your detractors also have freedom of speech. Therefore, just as you have the right to say what you like, they have the right to say what they like in response. I have noticed that this accusation, that some is violating someone else’s freedom of speech, only occurs when there’s disagreement. People love to try to use the constitution to shut down a discussion.

On points three and four: Yes. This has to deal with the Chick-Fil-A mess, and the mistaken idea that boycotting the restaurant chain because of Dan Cathy’s comments is unconstitutional. It takes points one and two a bit further by hitting the pocketbook. (sidenote: I wish people on both sides would do some damned research. It’s not just about chicken, Christianity, or gay marriage. It’s about this guy using your money to fund organizations that want gay people imprisoned or killed for daring to exist.) Many people are saying that the boycotts are violating Mr. Cathy’s rights by hurting his business. Here’s my problem with this idea: By claiming that people are wrong for choosing to not patronize the restaurant because of Mr. Cathy’s comments, you are saying people don’t have the right to decide where to spend their money. People choose where to shop/eat/find entertainment for a variety of reasons. They are allowed to do so. No one said Mr. Cathy has to change his beliefs or not say what he wants. However, people who disagree with him have every right to make their response known. I asked on FaceBook yesterday, whether people upset about the Chick-Fil-A boycott were equally upset about the boycotts against Oreos. Oreo created an ad campaign in support of LGBT issues. Many people made it known they would boycott Oreo for doing so. They had that right, just as the people boycotting Chick-Fil-A do.. None of the people supporting Chick-Fil-A on first amendment grounds said a word in support of Oreo on those same grounds. There’s also the problem of people pretending their freedom of speech is being threatened because they don’t like people telling them it’s not ok to violate their freedom of religion. People have the right to boycott a company that is supporting organizations pushing to force their religion on others.

Point five: This one is a little different. There is, to my mind, only one instance where being fired for what you say is justified. That is when you are representing a company and you say something that would reflect badly on the company.    If you say something at work, regardless of whether that’s your opinion, and it could hurt the reputation of the company that employs you, you can and should be fired. For example: If you work for me, and you, while in a uniform with my company’s logo on it, say something racist, I have every right to fire you. You are being offensive on my time, you are messing with my business, and I don’t have to keep you around after that. The first amendment means you can’t go to jail for saying it. It does not mean I have to keep paying you. Leave that shit at home.

I just…I’m really tired of people hollering about the first amendment when they are only using it to shut down an argument. The first amendment does not protect you from disagreement.

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