On the Inconsistency and Hypocrisy of the Free Speech Absolutists
The inconsistency of the free speech absolutists is somewhere between appalling and unintentionally hilarious. It’s like watching a B-grade horror flick where the scene is both graphic and terrifying — yet so badly done that you also have to laugh.
They are quick to defend the rights of white supremacists and NAZIS to march in Charlottesville (even if they disagree with what they’re saying — allegedly), but then they put on a show of being appalled when a football player takes a knee during the national anthem.
“Our men and women in the military died defending that flag!” they cry.
No. No, they didn’t. No one died defending the flag. They mostly died defending one another. Many did join the military to defend nobler ideas like “freedom.” But none joined to defend the flag.
The oath I swore when I joined was to protect the Constitution, not the flag.
Many died defending us from the NAZIS in World War II, though. Many died at the hands of the Confederates during the Civil War. But if you could resurrect all the troops that perished at the hands of those white supremacists, not one would say they died for the flag.
It’s a ludicrous, pseudo-patriotic, nationalistic strawman, propped up to make the messaging a bigger issue than the message. “It’s not what they’re saying,” the absolutists decree, “it’s how they’re saying it.
Here’s the thing that the absolutists want to avoid at all cost: What is the actual message that you’re defending? And what is the actual message you’re opposing?
The message in Charlottesville was hateful and divisive. Take everything else out of the picture and just look at the message. While the groups were “diverse” in the sense that there were different kinds of right-wing hate there — they all had the right-wing hate in common.
Their goal is oppression of minorities, gays, transgenders, immigrants, Muslims and so on. It is a fundamentally destructive message filled with hostility and malice.
If they had their way, it would be an insult to everything every American soldier who ever died for his country.
But did the absolutists disparage this disrespect of the flag in Charlottesville?
Now, set aside everything else but the message when NFL players take a knee before the anthem. What are they asking for?
They’re asking for equality in the justice system and in our policing system. They believe an African American pulled over by the police for a broken tail light shouldn’t have to fear for his life.
Do you really have a problem with that?
It’s a matter of substantive reality. Blacks are three times as likely to die by use of force. And yes, there are all kinds of conversations about why that is.
But you can’t just say, “Well, blacks commit more crimes!”
Because that argument just begs the question: Why do black Americans commit more crimes? Why are black Americans more likely to live in poverty? Why are black Americans more likely to come from broken homes?
Systemic racism is cyclical and interrelated. Higher crime is connected with lower income, which is correlated with things like broken homes and divorce or single parenting — which in turn are related to things like lower income and so on and so forth.
While it’s sad and pathetic that our POTUS wants to act like all black Americans live in the inner city, we can’t ignore that many do — and that those citizens are entangled in systemic racism. It’s a knot of a hundred strings, and you can’t just pull on one of them.
Nor can you ignore that time after time, those who are tasked with protecting all citizens walk away from killing unarmed black teens — even children — without repercussions. That’s beyond problematic; it’s heartbreaking and horrific.
Systemic racism is an enormously complex subject. And no, nothing gets “solved” by someone taking a knee before the anthem. But something sure as heck could get started by it.
This is a conversation America needs to have and frankly, never has had — not in full. We’ve tried to put band-aids on it before (e.g., the Civil Rights Act), but we’ve never really addressed the entire system of racism.
We think that just by saying “It’s not a problem” or “I’m tired of talking about it” that somehow it makes the problem go away and the conversation had. But no, we’ve never really looked at the entire massive ball of racist-string that our country has spent 600 years tangling and said, “How do we unravel this? How do we reach racial equality?”
Or even the great big question that we’ve managed to avoid: Do we owe restitution?
These are hard questions and harder discussions.
It’s easier to bicker about men taking knees — or even have nostalgic rallies to commemorate the good old days of slavery — than have an honest conversation about real wrongs Americans currently face in our country.
In fact, it’s the mere threat of that conversation that has white supremacists marching in Charlottesville, so please don’t tell me we’ve moved past it.
But think on this: How much better could we be if we actually had it?
See, that’s the difference. The fundamental message of the “Unite the Right” crowd is destructive; the theme of the men taking a knee is essentially constructive.
So, can we put aside the foolish strawman arguments and genuinely talk about institutional racism and how to solve it?