These questions were posed in class, “Are we really free? Do we really have freedom of speech in this country? Is there censorship?”
Well, these are big questions, and rather interrelated, of course. My simple answer to all three of them is, yes.
We are free; at least by my definition of free. Meaning,we have the freedom to choose how to live our lives. If you decide to give up a lucrative career and go be a squid fisherman in Borneo, you are free to do so. No one will stop you.
You are free to choose anything. You just have to be aware that choices have consequences. If you’re going to define freedom as a complete lack of consequences, then no, you are not now, nor will you ever be, free. I see this problem in a lot of people. They seem to feel that just because they want something, that should be reason enough to get it, but they're seldom willing to make the sacrifices necessary to make it happen. Nor are they willing to take responsibility for the consequences. That's my biggest problem. People are so quick to demand their freedoms; their right to choose. But they are even more quick to abdicate their responsibilty for the consequence of the choice. They always want someone else to pay for it. That's not freedom. That's slavery.
As to the second question, this country has the freest speech you’re ever going to find. I would like to note, however, that what our forefathers intended by that amendment was the right to criticize the government. Not the right to be publicly offensive with impunity. When the Dixie Chicks had their little bout with public reactions, they were shocked and appalled that people responded so negatively. I think they were stupid not to see it coming! They viewed their actions as patriotic(which makes me question, not only their intellect, but their sanity). They had every right, under the Constitution, to say what they did, and if they had been in the States when they did it, the reaction would likely not have been as intense. But when you go to a foreign country and denigrate yours, you’ve crossed a line. I don’t feel sorry for them. Not even a little. You said what you had to say, and now you can deal with the consequences. I will never buy one of their albums. And I change the station if one of their songs comes on. That’s one of the consequences. They lose my patronage. That’s the thing most people seem unwilling to accept. You have the right to say whatever you want. You do not, however, have the right to an audience, let alone a warm and accepting one.
Question three: Is there censorship in America? Yes. And I’m glad. What the critics call censorship, I call discretion, and I’m deeply appreciative for the meager amounts that are currently circulating in our society. This criticism is usually lobbed by those who think Europe has the market cornered on “the way to live and be happy”. I do not wish to become as seemingly “enlightened” as our Western European friends. Pardon me, but didn’t we fight that whole Revolutionary War thing, so that we WOULDN’T become like them?! Further, has anyone else noticed that when Europeans say enlightened, what they are invariably talking about is sex? When, oh when, did sex become the pinnacle and beacon of all learning and knowledge?! I’m noticing this attitude seeping to our society with alarming thoroughness. People seem to feel that if we are not open to, actively engaged in and discussing sex of every kind that we are somehow lacking. We are hypocrites. NEWS FLASH: The fact that you engage in a behavior, does not automatically render it appropriate for public discussion!
On a side note, I find it to be an interesting juxtaposition that in France they will talk about sex at the drop of a hat, but it is considered beyond uncouth to discuss money in any form. No wonder they hate us! We are their antithesis!
So, to recap: Yes. We are really free. Free to choose, but not free to escape the consequences of our choice. Yes, we have freedom of speech. You can say whatever you like, but you're not guaranteed an audience or acceptance of what you have to say. Yes, we have censorship, and it's a good thing. It's true name is discretion. Not all information NEEDS to be out there.