1first

Before you proceed: I believe the first amendment is critical to a healthy democracy. I do not advocate or wish to eliminate free speech.

For the past 3 years I have asked a person, Beth Light, in my community to stop sending me emails due to their content; typically ranting about how awful the president and Republicans are, calling out people in politics and even people in our community, their actions and words that Beth does not like. She insults individuals and groups alike, calls them names and even threatens them with legal action. After a while I noticed her email and social media rants were causing me stress so I asked her to please remove me from her email list. She ignored my first requests. I repeated my requests, initially being polite and friendly, after she ignored polite requests I began demanding that she remove me. Initially she refused and told me that because I was on the same committee as she was, I was compelled to receive them. So I quit the group due to her words (and to be fair the words of a few of the other members). I just did not want to hear or read them, I did not want to spend any part of my day listening to/reading about a person ranting and being mean to other people. I did not like how she treated people in my community and did not want to be around her ugly rancor. Now she is telling people that I need therapy because I am mentally unstable. That’s right, I am the one who needs anger management therapy because I am demanding she stop contacting me.

What do the members of the community tell me?

“That’s just Beth. She doesn’t mean anything by it.”

“Oh, she’s always been that way.”

“You need to toughen up.”

“Don’t be so thin skinned.”

“She’s just an old lady, don’t put too much into what she says.”

“Just delete her emails if you don’t like them.”

“Just block her in your email settings.” (By the way, I did that a long time ago but occasionally they slip though the SPAM filter)

“She donates a lot to the community.”

“She has issues, just ignore her.”

“She has a right to say what she wants- Free Speech.”

The last one, “She has a right to say what she wants- Free Speech.” Where is my right to freedom from her speech? Why is the responsibility mine to get away from her speech? Why do I have to change my behavior? Why does she not have to change her behavior? Does no one find it disturbing that a person continues to send unwanted emails to a woman who has made clear she does not want them? Made vehemently clearly. Why am I the one who needs therapy? Free Speech comes with responsibility. If you would like to read a similar perspective on this topic I suggest, Frank Sonneburg.

1free 

Maybe some have become immune to the angry rantings of others, maybe they think it is amusing to read, or perhaps they just have the luxury of ‘thick skin’. What exactly is thin skin and thick skin? Is thick skin when you have lost the ability to be affected by the nasty insults and commentary of others? If there is one thing that 45’s election has taught me is that words matter, what we say and how we say it matters. 45 has enabled the outrage of Nationalist Whites to come up from the sewer we thought it was buried under to the surface of our culture and media. While racism and sexism never went away, the election of 45 has enabled and empowered it to come back. Words are powerful as Maya Angelou well knew, that is why she didn’t want foul speech around her.

I will not sit in a group of black friends and hear racial pejoratives against whites. I will not hear “honky.” I will not hear “Jap.” I will not hear “kike.” I will not hear “greaser.” I will not hear “dago.” I will not hear it. As soon as I hear it, I say, “Excuse me, I have to leave. Sorry.” Or if it's in my home, I say, “You have to leave. I can't have that. That is poison, and I know it is poison, and you're smearing it on me. I will not have it.” Now, it's not an easy thing. And one doesn't all of a sudden sort of blossom into somebody who's courageous enough to say that. But you do start little by little.... Little by little, you develop courage. You sit in a room, and somebody says, “Well, you know what the Japs did then, and what they're doing now.” Say, “Mm-hmm! I have to go. My goodness! It's already six o'clock.” Leave. Continue to build the courage. Sooner or later, you'll be able to say out loud, “Just a minute. I defend that person. I will not have gay bashing, lesbian bashing. Not in my company. I will not do it.”

Why do we allow the people around us to behave badly? Instead of telling, discussing, asking, requesting or demanding that those who spew vitriol stop; we either spit it back at them or pretend to ignore them. Where does that leave us? It leaves us with a culture that enabled a misogynistic, racist, unqualified, lying, criminal as president. When we allow bad behavior to continue we are quietly condoning it. Every time a man chuckles with his buddies about, “what a hot ass you have” or a woman back stabs another woman instead of supporting her in the workplace, or a principal tells a bullied student, ‘suck it up, buttercup’, we enable bad behavior. When we tell the recipient there is something wrong with them because they are offended instead of calling out the offender, we enable racism, sexism, or hate speech. That’s how we have arrived at a place in our society where a president can say, “Will she run as our first Native American presidential candidate, or has she decided that after 32 years, this is not playing so well anymore? See you on the campaign TRAIL, Liz!". Can anyone imagine Ronald Reagan or John Kennedy saying that in a public arena? Did Obama or Bush brag about grabbing pussy? We should be able to disagree with another’s politics without slamming them to the mat. We ought to be able to talk about issues and qualifications without disparaging each other.

At some point we have to stand up and say, “No more. Your words are hateful, hurtful, ugly, racist, sexist, segregationist and are causing our society harm. Stop talking like that. Stop insulting people. Discuss policies and issues and qualification instead.

Recently Adam Schiff (you may remember “So funny to see little Adam Schitt...) wrote:

This is a moment of great peril for our democracy. Our country is deeply divided. Our national discourse has become coarse, indeed, poisonous. Disunity and dysfunction have paralyzed Congress.

But the Russian attack on our democracy had its limits. Only we could do that to ourselves.

To my Republican colleagues: When the president attacked the independence of the Justice Department by intervening in a case in which he is implicated, you did not speak out. When he attacked the press as the enemy of the people, you again were silent. When he targeted the judiciary, labeling judges and decisions he didn’t like as illegitimate, we heard not a word. And now he comes for Congress, the first branch of government, seeking to strip it of its greatest power, that of the purse.

Many of you have acknowledged your deep misgivings about the president in quiet conversations over the past two years. You have bemoaned his lack of decency, character and integrity. You have deplored his fundamental inability to tell the truth. But for reasons that are all too easy to comprehend, you have chosen to keep your misgivings and your rising alarm private.

That must end. The time for silent disagreement is over. You must speak out.

This will require courage...............history compels us to speak, and act, our conscience, Republicans and Democrats alike. Adam B. Schiff, Democrat, represents California’s 28th Congressional District in the House and is chairman of the Intelligence Committee.

There are many places where I have commented about and discussed civility, in my personal life, private conversations, in groups, in meetings and on social media and many people seem to understand that my intention has been to entreat others to talk with civility using reasonable language. I have tried to be clear in relaying that I am not opposed to people’s opinions or their right to speak.

I do not want to limit or restrict Free Speech- it’s integral to democracy (which I happen to love very much).

I am not asking anyone to be silent; that is not my aim. I have witnessed the suppression of speech by some leaders in my community and it was ugly. Silence is not what I am proposing. Just plain civility- that’s all. Just recognize that as the poet William Carlos Williams wrote,

1william

Requiring civility and rational discourse should not be mocked, those who ask to be spoken to with respect are not the problem. Can we please stop ridiculing requests for courtesy as if being polite and respectful are preposterous notions? A person should have the right to be spoken to with a modicum of decency and not be told they are need of therapy for requesting it. One day they may come for you.... and there will be no one left to speak for you.

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Martin Niemöller

Deborah Baron

Deborah Baron

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