Here’s the thing about speech: It’s never free.
Billy Bob Thornton was right when accepting his Golden Globe this past January: “These days you get into a lot of trouble no matter what you say… you can say anything in the world and get in trouble. I know this for a fact. So I’m just going to say thank you.”
Being right isn’t the same as being smart.
Justine Sacco was fired from her PR job after a tactless tweet about white people not contracting AIDS. When Patricia Arquette said in her Oscar acceptance speech that it’s time for all gay and colored people to “fight for [women] now,” she came under fire for being white, privileged, and insensitive to minority intersectionality. Journalists and cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo were threatened and then attacked for drawing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad.
All these are cause and effect. You have the right to say and do anything within the realm of the law, but can’t ignore that words and actions carry consequences, regardless of whether or not those consequences are justified or legitimate. From internet shamers to fanatic extremists, the consequences can include public humiliation, loss of employment, and even violent and fatal attacks, which leads to the intersection of free speech, hate speech, and responsible speech; being right versus being smart.
Parker Rice and Levi Pettit were expelled on March 10 from the University of Oklahoma, two days after the two were filmed leading their Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) fraternity members in a racist chant on a bus. Many on the bus, including Rice and Pettit, repeatedly sang, “There will never be a nigger at SAE, you can hang them from a tree, but they’ll never sign with me.”
The expulsion of these students is problematic. Whether we agree with the expulsion or not — and despite first amendment issues that exist — expelling these students for a racist chant creates a zero tolerance standard that will be too complex and almost impossible to uphold across the board. Continue reading
You get on the bus. It’s just for show, the bus only takes you about 200 meters into Tel Hashomer Base; you and all the others enlisting with you can just as easily walk. But it means something to get on that bus, for your family to see you doing it. It’s the last time they’ll see you as a civilian. You’ll come home that night or the following week or month in uniform. A soldier. You look behind you and smile, then you take a seat.
You come home that night and the uniform you have on is green and crisp and new. You look awkward wearing it. You’re not really a soldier, not yet, only by name. I look at this picture of you thirteen years later and there’s so much you don’t know, so much I want to tell you to make the following years easier for you. To put you more at ease. The truth is, I don’t remember you at that age anymore. I don’t remember what you were like. I don’t know how much of you was you back then, and how much of you was built over the following two or five or even eight years.
On the north east corner of 35th street and sixth avenue, lies an empty Chicken Nuggets Box. It has just recently been dropped, it seems. People are walking by and around, taking care not to step on it. A heavyset man in a baseball cap is the first one to step directly on it and keep moving. After that a domino effect kicks in and the box is stepped on and kicked. A small Asian man, a little kid in a hoodie, a woman on her phone.
We’re almost at 36th street now. A blonde woman in a business suit kicks the box across the sidewalk next to a line of people waiting for the bus. It looks like the box is just waiting for the bus like everyone else. As if the bus will come and the Chicken Nuggets Box will get on after the old lady in front of him and swipe his metro card and ride the bus back home to his family of Chicken Nuggets Boxes. His mother will clean him up and bathe him and scrub all the shoe filth off of him and pop his corners back up until he looks fresh and good as new. She’ll tuck him into bed and tell him she loves him and that tomorrow will be a better and brighter day. She’ll kiss him and close the lights and the Chicken Nuggets Box will forget that he spent twenty minutes of the day getting kicked around by people. Continue reading