Freedom, Dialogue, and Coercion

Need for Freedom
One of the bedrock principles upon which our nation was built is our freedom to speak freely.  Our ability to have intelligent discourse, especially when there's disagreement, will determine whether our nation stagnates or continues to grow.  When we allow one side of a conversation to silence another, the resulting monopolization of ideas puts us on a dangerous path toward tyranny.

America is more polarized than ever.  That's not to say that opposing sides are necessarily further apart.  Rather, the polarization seems starker because any effort to bridge the chasm is disparaged.  The extremes at each side of a debate become so inflexible that no divergence or alternative is tolerated.  When we disagree with another, the response should not be to silence them by shouting louder or threatening the source of their livelihood.  If we believe that we speak words of truth, let those words be enough.

Coerced Speech and Silence
Two days ago, Phil Robertson was summarily suspended by A&E Network from his role in Duck Dynasty over comments he'd made in an interview.  Whether and how much we agree or disagree with what he said, should he be suspended or fired over his comments?  Should the fact that a significant number of people were deeply hurt and offended by his remarks justify his suspension?

The Freedom of Speech I espouse is beyond the protection guaranteed in our Constitution.  I understand that no laws have been made by Congress to impede his right to expression.  However, the principle behind that freedom that's been eroded -- the ability to have civil discourse without coercion.

Both sides of the political spectrum have been guilty of the same underlying tactics.

  • Sen. Ted Cruz spoke for 21-hours to voice his objection to President Obama's healthcare law;
  • Texas State Senator Wendy Davis spoke for 11-hours to block passage of an abortion law; 
  • Protesters shout and demonstrate at military funerals, condemning the country in the name of Jesus;
  • Blocking of Facebook pages after opponents complain of "hateful content"; and 
Win Them Over
Sadly, many of these tactics succeed -- at least in loose definition of the word "success."  A position wins, not due to agreement or even compromise, by submission.

At home, we try to teach our children how to have a proper discourse.  WSpehen we communicate our rules (or consequences), they are allowed to question for the purposes of understanding.  After understanding, they are allowed to express their opinions and try to change our positions.  However, they must always conduct themselves respectfully in word, tone, and conduct.  We don't always succeed but we consciously try.  Peggy and I take seriously our duty to teach them certain truths; our desire is for them to do more than just follow the truth but to fully accept it.

Those who know me know where I stand on key issues.  More importantly, you know (I hope!!!) where I turn to for guidance on my positions.  Though I hold my convictions to be truth, I realize others won't be convinced simply by my speaking louder or silencing them.

Anyone with a wise heart is called discerning, and pleasant speech  increases learning.  (Pr 16:21, HCSB)
A fool does not delight in understanding, but only wants to show off his opinions.  (Pr 18:2, HCSB)

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