Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Wednesday's Words, by Morgan Ashbury

Here I go again, probably getting myself into hot water. It is not my wish to offend anyone. But I must speak out, because right now, my heart is hurting. It’s hurting for many of my friends and readers.

I’ve been watching the Face Book posts that have been entering my news feed since January 20th and even before. I can’t recall another time when I felt so disheartened by what I was seeing. There is so much anger, so much hatred, you can literally feel it choking off the very breath of freedom.

Many of my friends are citizens of the United States, which has recently experienced a very hotly contested election. The divide between the two political parties has been, to my observation in recent years, absolutely toxic, and it’s getting worse. It wasn’t always this way. It doesn’t have to be this way!

A trend began about a decade or more ago that is so full grown now that it’s commonplace, and that trend is to demonize one’s political opponents. It has been noted by various different U. S. researchers that in these times of increased political polarization, people in that country tend only to congregate with and talk to those who are of the same opinions as themselves, sometimes even moving to live near others of like mind—politically speaking. Cordial dialogue and friendship between people of opposing political viewpoints is practically non-existent anymore. This entrenches the concept that “I am right and you are wrong.” But the lies and the vitriol online and elsewhere, on both sides, has poured gasoline on the situation so that sentiment has become, “I am good and you are evil” and even, “I am of God and you are Satan!”

I’m not a part of this great ideological schism, because I am a Canadian. But I am also a human being with a heart and a soul and a conscience and, yes, an intellect.

Anyone on either side demonizing the other, is in the wrong. Period. Anyone on either side telling someone on the other side to shut up, or otherwise interfering with their ability to express their opinion is in the wrong. Period.

My American friends, you live in a nation that holds as sacred both the Declaration of Independence and The Constitution of the United States. I’ve seen these documents with my own eyes. My beloved and I viewed them on our trip to D. C. back in the 1990s. You call them sacred documents? I can tell you they are indeed, for an aura of sanctity filled the very room they were in. We both felt it, as did all of the rest of the tourists around us, everyone talking in hushed tones. The only other place I experienced anything like it was at Arlington National Cemetery.

What makes these documents sacred to you? That they are old? That you can see them through green glass (which was how they were on display when we saw them)? Or is it the words they contain, the meaning of those words, and the heart and the soul of those words, held as holy truths written during a time when most governments of the day were monarchies or tyrannies?

The following quote is about a part of your Constitution, the First Amendment. The First Amendment, as in the very first thing deemed important enough to be added onto this document of holy truths. This quote is from the Cornell University Law School website, and you can find it here: https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/first_amendment

“The First Amendment guarantees freedoms concerning religion, expression, assembly, and the right to petition. It forbids Congress from both promoting one religion over others and also restricting an individual’s religious practices. It guarantees freedom of expression by prohibiting Congress from restricting the press or the rights of individuals to speak freely. It also guarantees the right of citizens to assemble peaceably and to petition their government.”

Yes, the amendment only forbids Congress from interfering with these rights…but is not congress representative of the whole of the American population? Or do you think it’s all right to spew hate-filled diatribes against your ideological adversaries, because hey, you have a right to your free speech and you’re not the congress, after all, and in addition to all that, you are good and they are evil?

Now, reasonable people will tell you that having the freedom of speech doesn’t allow you the freedom to shout “fire” in an enclosed public space, like a movie theater, because that would cause a panic, a stampede, and people could be wounded or killed. Can we all agree on that, at least?

Well I believe that you should observe the spirit as well as the letter of the law. I believe reasonable people should also refrain from vitriolic rants aimed at spreading hate against others, because that could and likely would end in the possibility of damage to the spirit and wounds to the soul.

To be precise, you cause damage to the spirit of your adversaries—and wounds to your very own immortal soul. Can’t we go back to the time when we all agreed to disagree on certain things? Can we not offer to our brothers and sisters the very same right to an opinion that we cling to ourselves?

When you deny the right of others to hold their own opinions, insisting all must only believe in yours, at the very least you make yourself a prisoner of your own narrow mind set, ceding your right to change your own mind. At worst, you reject the very concepts of democracy, of a democratic republic and metaphorically turn your back on those two documents you claim to revere.

Please, my friends, can’t we all be a little bit kinder to one another, and respect each person’s right to their own beliefs?

Love,
Morgan


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