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BellaOnline's Civil Rights Editor

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Freedom Of Speech, A Computer, And The Will To Use It

Guest Author - Sylvia Cochran

This is the 5th article in our Civil Rights And The Freedom Of Speech series. The first installment was entitled Civil Rights And The Freedom Of Speech, the second was Freedom Of Speech, Gag Rules, Gag Orders, And Gagged Critics, the third was entitled Freedom Of Speech, National Origin, And Religious Belief, and number four was Freedom Of Speech, Obscenity, And The Super Bowl.


“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

In these past few articles we have discussed the freedom of speech we are guaranteed by the simple fact that we live in this great country. We are promised a free exercise of this intellectual muscle to our heart’s content. Whether we wish to burn a flag, stand on a soap box, organize a protest march, offer our insights on a number of topics, or let lose the most repugnant drivel in the name of freedom of speech...all these utterances are protected by the Constitution.

Yet, why does it appear that so few of us actually flex this most coveted muscle? Why does it seem as though a few speak out, while so many more are content you simply follow akin a herd of lemmings?

If you feel inspired to take up your pen and begin exercising your civil rights by making your voice heard, here are some practical suggestions:

  • Have an opinion.
    Ok, so this sounds inane...but think about it: how many times have you asked somebody for their opinion, and they just shrugged their shoulders? Or worse, how many times have you been asked to share your thoughts on a subject, only to answer with “I don’t know” or “I don’t care” or worse still “Who cares”? See? Having an opinion is something that needs to be cultivated.
  • Be informed.
    This brings us to point two...have an informed opinion. Whether you are politically on the reactionary right, radical left, or somewhere in the moderate middle, it is time to let go of the emotional hype and make some rational decisions on the issues. No, not all republicans are bad (hence saying “I hate republicans and all they stand for” is the height of immature emotional pandering) and neither are all democrats (so the maligning of those who question the administration and its trappings is not only insulting, but quite often leads to lunatic conclusions about “them liberals”).
  • Stay informed.
    Don’t take what you read on the Internet, in the newspaper, or what you hear on TV as gospel...it isn’t. Stories are reported even when 95% of the alleged facts are really just conjecture, and the other 5% are the little bits and pieces that are gleaned from disgruntled cleaning ladies, bingeing interns, and employees with an axe to grind. Rather than relying on just one source, go ahead and be open to many sources.
  • Do something about it.
    This must be the single most hardest suggestion. It is not enough to simply know about an issue near and dear to one’s heart, but now is the time to actually do something about it. How does one do it? Simple!
    1. First and foremost...know who is in charge! Who is your Senator? Who is your State Representative?
    2. Secondly, find out about pending legislation. Read the text of proposed acts and bills, and see who is sponsoring the legislation.
    3. Thirdly, put it in writing! In the time of e-mail, there is no reason why you could not have a vibrant, albeit one-sided, relationship with your elected officials. Even if they do not answer your letter or e-mail, they do want to hear from you!
    4. Which brings us to point number four: make contact! Some websites offer “form e-mails”. While this may be better than nothing, it doesn’t beat “nothing” by much. Think about it: if someone were to address you on an issue with a form-letter, and then was joined by about 100 other people with the same form-letter, how would this sway you or change your mind on something? Wouldn’t it make more sense to offer the legislator some personal background on the issue at hand? Similarly, wouldn’t it make sense to tell your elected official how a vote for or against the issue would affect you directly on a personal level? Additionally, include your contact information; perhaps you will receive a call/e-mail back.
    5. And last but not least...write in complete, clear, and concise sentences. Don’t write a dissertation...keep is short, sweet, and to the point. Be polite, even if you disagree with their assessment of a situation, and always thank the legislator for reading your letter/e-mail. Remember: it is easier to catch flies with honey than with vinegar!
I hope this article has inspired you, at least a little, to actually pursue and exercise this most precious of all civil rights: the freedom of speech.
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Content copyright © 2014 by Sylvia Cochran. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Sylvia Cochran. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact BellaOnline Administration for details.

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