I had the great honor of raising our American Flag this morning. It reminded me that I was one of the students that raised and lowered the flag each day during 9th grade. It still gives me goosebumps. I am proud to be an American. I love our country and our Constitution. I have been thinking about our First Amendment Rights a great deal lately.
Offended. That is the word that has me bugged. Perhaps it is because I am pondering my legacy, or that I just committed to not shying away from tough topics, I just don’t get the whole “I am offended” crowd.
Here’s why – (spoken in my best grandma voice…) in the good ol’ days, before we all had our noses glued to our smartphones, adults would get together to talk. We could share opinions on all of the taboo subjects: religion, politics, money, gender issues, and child rearing. In fact, we could agree to disagree. That simple truce meant that discourse could continue without anyone thinking the person with opposing views was unintelligent or completely misguided. There was no need to call the person on the other side names or make mean comments to them.
I love having conversations with people who have different ideas and opinions on a topic. What a great way to get to know people and build relationships. It is perfectly acceptable to have a healthy debate, shake hands and make a time to hang out again soon.
Lately, all I hear, or see on social media, is that someone is offended by someone else’s ideas or positions on various topics. Really?! What someone else has in their head is offensive? Ridiculous. You see, simply stating an opinion or having a deeply held belief is a guaranteed right here in the United States.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” U. S. Constitution, Amendment 1.
This text is a masterpiece. I studied this in my Constitutional Law class. I remember thinking that all the great Justices and wave-making attorneys stood their ground using the Constitution as their rock. We are blessed to have these rights woven into the fabric of our society. The First Amendment doesn’t require us to agree with each other. It doesn’t say that I am dirt bag if I don’t believe like you. It doesn’t say I need to go to your church, eat your food, or think like you do.
The right to speak freely is a blessing. It is foundational to our freedom. It is the basis upon which we can gather and encourage one another. Sharing ideas and views publicly gives us a chance to consider our own paradigm and, perhaps, change it. So, this weekend, ask someone to tell you a little more about their views. Listen to your internal dialogue and try to quiet it for a time. I am going to work on my active listening skills during a gathering this holiday weekend. Just food for thought to accompany your barbecue and watermelon. Have a wonderful Independence Day. Deb