Why Free Speech Must Be Free

            “I think, therefore I am.”  Descartes says it.  We Americans would go one step further, “I speak, and therefore you know I am.”  Speech is, in its purest form, art.  Our whole world is found in our words.  Jesus summed it up pretty well himself, “Out of the mouth the heart speaks.”


            In these concepts we find the most complete understanding of why free speech is the root of all freedoms.  Freedom of speech, even that speech with which we disagree, is the foundation of respect for life.  When a man or a woman expresses what is in their heart it is only right that there is an inherent respect for the speech.


            In a relationship that has lost trust speech becomes a tool for evil.  It is often one of the first signs of a relationship gone bad.  At the same time, speech is the first line in building up another person, the first line in creating trust and love.


            We understand this concept in the depths of our soul.  As Americans we have been given a political tradition that takes this basic concept and codifies it.  Our Constitution is the foundational document for every freedom we have.  It is also the document that is most used around the world to create the same basic right.  Yet, no one in the world understands the value of speech the way Americans do.


            The first thing a government does when it is seeking to control a group of people is to stop the free flow of communications.  Whether that is stopping the written word, the spoken word, the word through music, it is always the same—freedom of speech is the first to go. 


            People are only free when they can express their innermost thoughts and beliefs in a public place—whether that is a public sidewalk or the confines of an intimate relationship.


            A mature government of the people has to respect the voice of the people.  We cannot truly be free, as individuals or a group, if we do not have the freedom of expression.  And the reason for this is simple—speech is the communication of what is at the core of our being.  When the core of our being is suppressed, the rest of our being is entrapped—whether we know it or not.


            Even if we have nothing to say, it is important that we have the right to say it.  Take away that right and we all begin to live behind prison bars.  Open, public debate is more important than peace.  That is one of the lessons of Orwell’s Animal Farm. 


As troubling as it is to permit the free exchange of ideas, it is un-American to suppress ideas for the sake of peace.


If we tolerate the loss of the freedom of speech we will soon see the loss of every other right we hold dear—for it is the right to express ourselves in public that keeps everyone around us, including the government, honest.  Without it we will find all we hold dear to be gone in a vapor.


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