Americans have always prided themselves with living in a nation where you can freely speak your mind. Freedom of speech, religion and the press are such core values in our nation that they are written into the First Amendment of our Constitution.
We seem to be gluttons for superficial and silly speech. Almost all segments of our society seem to want to personally telecast all sorts of information about their daily lives. Social networks such as Facebook, Google + and Twitter give anyone a venue to share anything they want with anyone who is willing to listen. Bumper stickers, T-shirt messages and tattoos put a person's likes and dislikes on public display, which is often more than innocent bystanders appreciate.
Yet we have entered a period where a person expressing a long held traditional belief like marriage is between a man and a woman (sanctioned by every major religion in the world) can now be considered a "hate crime" by a small well-organized segment of society. Progressive politicians even spoke about denying Chick-fil-A access to their communities because of Mr. Cathy's statement about marriage being between a man and a woman. This is happening even though ninety days ago President Obama's supposedly held the same position on marriage.
Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy made a Biblical reference that marriage was indeed between a man and a woman to a Christian newspaper and was crucified by many in the media. Supposedly he was degrading and vilifying homosexuality. His statement was interpreted as a coded message of hate against the LGBT community.
Strong moral convictions do not make a person intolerant. They give a person a moral compass to guide him. Every person has a right to his values and the expression of them under the First Amendment.
Even when a well-reasoned, cogent argument against a policy of President Obama is given instead of the merits and deficiencies of it being discussed, the discussion is dismissed as a racial attack on our president. We are not having a free, open and civil discussion to better understand each other's point of view. We are attacking and obliterating the messenger.
Diverting the focus from one subject and placing it on another by making unsubstantiated allegations is a way to prevent an honest debate. The person accused of something, even with no reliable evidence presented, according to the "new rules" has the responsibility to prove his innocence.
This "guilty until you prove your innocence" can be seen with new laws such as sex abuse laws on the state level. Innocent people have to spend enormous amounts of time, energy and money attempting to find out the specific evidence, if any, supposedly linking them to an often fabricated incident meant to harm them. The accused is guilty regardless of the truth of the accusation until he proves otherwise. Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty?
Senate majority leader Harry Reid has taken rumor in politics to a disgusting level. He stated that an investor for Bain Capital (Mitt Romney's former company) called him and told him that Romney did not file income taxes for 10 years. He was either unable or unwilling to identify the accuser. He then went on the senate floor to escalate the charge by saying, "the word is out, he hasn't paid any taxes for 10 years. Let him prove he has paid taxes, for he hasn't." Notice he went from having no evidence to a statement of fact without offering any evidence.
Sen. Reid then had the audacity to tell the people of the USA that it was up to Mr. Romney to produce the proof of 10 years of income tax filings or it would be presumed he did not file. This means all unsubstantiated allegations would become facts if the individual did not disprove them. This is turning due process on its head.
The administration, and more importantly the press, has refused to denounce Sen. Reid's tactics of McCarthyism. The press is no longer even pretending to be objective. It is becoming more apparent that the press is no longer seeking the truth but is attempting to protect the progressive agenda and politicians.
In 2009 the Department of Homeland Security warned of "Tea Party extremism" even though there was no evidence of any violence by Tea Party members. Homeland Security pushing the narrative of Tea Party terrorism is difficult to fathom while stating in 2011 that the Occupy Wall Street movement was peaceful when their destructive actions were featured in the media for all to see.
The Tea Party's consistent message has been limited government, reduction of national debt and more responsive representatives in doing what they say. This is not a terrorist agenda; it is the same one for which our founding fathers died.
In the 1960 anti-establishment movement, participants burned flags, mocked every institution and destroyed property under the guise of free speech. Now that some of these same people have risen to power, they are ironically proponents of a strong central government curtailing our First Amendment protections.
Limiting and eventually crushing conditions where people are comfortable enough to express themselves politically, practice their religion openly, and expect the media to be non-partisan is dangerous to the preservation of our liberty. It will result in an increasingly repressive central government eventually becoming full-blown totalitarianism.
Blatant lies, religious bigotry and a biased press will probably exist to a limited extend even with robust First Amendment protection, but they will be exposed and cleansed by open, civil debate. Citizens expect and deserve an honest free marketplace of ideas to arrive at positive solutions to our societal problems.
The word is out, truth still does matter. Our first amendment is a brilliant way to maintain it. Only by allowing citizens the ability to freely speak their minds, freely practice their religion without fear of reprisal and have a legitimate free press can we maintain our strength as a republic.