“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.
This was the sentiment the French philosopher Voltaire expressed over 200 years ago in a political climate arguably much more divisive and volatile than today’s.
I’ve been thinking about that quote for the past few days for several reasons. It’s a popular quote (which Voltaire technically didn’t say, it’s more a conglomerate of several quotes) that gets thrown around in editorials, academia, and political science term papers, but how many people really stop and reflect on the weight behind it or its implications?
I mean, sure I would lay down my life for family, friends and my god-given rights to life and property, but what about the one in between? What about Liberty?
Would you give your life to defend a Hollywood liberal’s right to express his views on single-payer healthcare even though it grates on your nerves? A former radical-turned-tenured professor advocating higher taxes as a matter of “civic duty?” And just so the liberals don’t feel left out, how about giving your life to defend the right of a pro-lifer or a neoconservative to express their opinions? Or an advocate of 2nd Amendment rights to express theirs? (C’mon, you’re going to need to protect your rights with something and I’d rather not use a big stick and some snowballs).
Does liberty mean enough to you that it would drive you to defend opinions and speech that are abhorrent to your own views? Or would you only go so far as to only defend your own beliefs? Think about that. Give it some time to roll around up there.
The reason I started thinking about this issue is because of a few comments left on one of my posts from a new blogger. This is a small blog, I know, and not too many outside my circle of like-minded friends are likely to read it so it’s easy to get trapped in a cycle of self-perpetuating groupthink. But how often do we listen to, and I mean really listen to our fellow Americans whose opinions differ from our own? Without condescension or scoffing or name-calling? It’s definitely hard and I’m guilty of ridiculing those to the left of me mercilessly, I admit it. Yet I always try my best to avoid ad hominem and only go for the jugular of the issues themselves. Is there enough respect and goodwill left in society to treat people decently even though they disagree?
Unless you question your own beliefs, you can never truly believe in them. So let others help you. A civil argument once and awhile feels pretty good.
Have it good,
p.s. – But don’t think for a minute that I support that misguided “fairness doctrine.” It’s painfully unconstitutional.
p.p.s – This post from mnDem is exactly what I wanted to read after drafting my opinion for today.