Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Why Free Speech Matters To You

It's amazing to see our first president imagined this
 before the Nazis came to power.
I've noticed that the Los Angeles Times and San Gabriel Tribune are focusing on a lot of stories regarding issues of Free Speech. I'm writing to explain why Free Speech is so important.

There are two reasons. The first one regards democracy. Free Speech and democracy are intertwined. You can't have a real democracy without Free Speech and Free Speech cannot exist except in a democratic system. The second reason is that it's the people's only way to make sure that those in power aren't abusing it.

Remember, a democratic system gives every citizen the power of the vote. With that power, the majority elects a person to rule them. This is not the only system - and in comparison with the rest of human history - this is a rather novel and young system.

Probably the oldest system is monarchy - where the people have no voice in who rules them. Your ruler is determined by who is born to the previous monarch. Other systems include dictatorships, where the person with the most physical power topples the previous one. In that system, the dictator stays in power until a new one comes and overthrows them. Russia operated in this way for a number of years, with figures like Lenin and Stalin. (Some times, people like Hitler can also manipulate a democratic system to become a sitting dictator.) North Korea is a blend of dictatorship and monarchy, right? Kim Il Sung, the First Great Leader, took the country by force, and from that point on, his child and his grandchild ruled. But in a democratic system, everybody has the power to elect a voice that represents them the best.

Voting implies that people are informed. That means that people need to have information. The more information people have, the more a person is educated on who a candidate is. The holder of the vote should know as much as possible about the people they can elect, so they can chose who represents them best. Essentially, to the dissatisfaction of public officials, we have the right to know about them. This is the reason why the Supreme Court has held that public figures have less privacy rights than a private citizen. This is also why government agencies in the United States are subject to open records law, which allows the public to know what's happening with their money.

The best example of the right to vote and the right to know are seen in the Watergate Scandal. The people elected Richard Nixon by a landslide in his second term as president. But when the people found out that he was behind a burglary, that he was wiretapping, and that he was lying to the American People, the public was outraged. The Congress, the courts, the media, and the people turned against him and forced him into a resignation. Why? Because when we knew the truth - we found that he was no longer fit to be our representative.

I suppose this works because we expect our representatives to be clean. There's an ancient unwritten and written covenant with the government and its people. Before statehood existed, which means before there were official countries like the U.S.A. or Canada or New Zealand, people lived in tribes. And the tribal leader was chosen to protect the tribe. In turn, people had to risk their lives in battles and pay taxes. A state is essentially a super tribe. So, our government is supposed to protect us from, let's say an invasion from another super tribe, like when Japan (a super tribe) attacked Pearl Harbor. But part of that covenant states that those in power will not use that power to lie, cheat, and steal from us. Therefore, when we found out about what Nixon did, he breached that covenant, and we found him no longer fit to represent us.

Therefore, the Right to Know not only effects how we cast our vote, it also gives us a way to know whether those in power are living up to their side of the covenant. And if they're not, once again, our democratic power can remove them through a recall or our republican system can remove the person through an impeachment or judicial intervention. If one lives in a regimented system, like a monarchy or a dictatorship, then the Right to Know is the only way to activate protests and mass gatherings, which show those in power that the sacred covenant has been violated against the people.

Thus, when governments punish dissidents or shut up gadflies, remember, they're taking away your power. They're taking away your right to be informed. And without being informed, you cannot exercise your right to vote at its fullest and you can't express your grievance through our republican system (the courts and the petitioning of our legislative representatives).

Now, one can say, well what about gagging hate speech? One can argue that hate speech has no place in our democracy.

To that, I say, hate speech is a point of view, though a minority one. We can chose not to listen to that view, but all people have the right to a view. And once you take one away, who are we giving that power to decide what views are acceptable or not? Also, hate speech can always be countered by those who are against it and present the other view.

So, I hope you can see that when the Mayor of Inglewood or the Mayor of Baldwin Park attack a person for expressing a view, it's a direct assault on our freedom to vote and to make sure those in power uphold their covenant. As discussed above, such attacks takes our system one step closer to the edge of a dictatorship - which is what's essentially happening in cities like Inglewood and Baldwin Park.

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