In a time of marches, Twitter debates, and mainstream politics this country is as divided as it has ever been with very few issues being bipartisan. The issue that must have agreement from both sides of the political spectrum that must stay a universal truth is free speech.
Freedom of speech is one of the most essentials rights we have as Americans, it drives public discourse and helps others strengthen or change their opinion. But over recent years we have seen some come out with a term called ‘hate speech’. I use scare quotes around hate speech because no one truly knows the definition of it and it changes on a case-by-case basis. Hate speech is described by Google as “speech or writing that expresses prejudice against a particular group, especially on the basis of race, religion, or sexual orientation”. Now we can all agree that anyone who is racist, sexist or homophobic is a bigot and that’s the lowest of the low. But after all, even horrific opinions are protected under the First Amendment as long as they are not threatening or harming another person. As someone who prides themselves as being a centrist and not a puppet for either the democrats or republicans, I find myself on different sides on multiple occasions, such as having the opinion that women should have the right to choose and that the 2nd Amendment is necessary to keep our other rights from a possible tyrannical government. The worst case of this in recent memory had to be on February 1st, where right-wing commentator Milo Yiannopoulos made an appearance at Berkeley College in California. Protest and riots caused more than $100,000 worth of damage to the campus all for one man and the reason is that of hate speech, which we should all agree. Someone such as Milo whom himself calls provocative should not have to fear for his life just because people disagree with him.
Free speech is meant to have everyone speak their ideas and from there as a public, we decide what is acceptable but for that line to be drawn, we must first be able to hear it and not shut it down with tagging it with the word ‘hate speech’ or any other label that may come its way. Every time this subject is brought up, I urge my peers to reconsider the inflammatory rhetoric used, sadly there is only so much I can do as a person especially if I am the on the receiving end of the blowback. This is an issue where we shouldn’t try to take someone’s right away, but when the mob comes knocking no matter what political affiliation, I take a stand and am ready to die on this hill to protect others rights to speak their mind about any issue after all it was the 1st Amendment that helped with getting the civil rights movement up and running, gay marriage legalized and bring light to mental health.