I believe in freedom of expression. The ability to express what one believes is the key to all other freedoms, and without it, all others would be, by and large, useless. The ability to communicate beliefs is what prevents tyranny and dogmatism, and that ability should be protected at all costs. I believe in the free flow of thoughts and ideas, and in the sharing of beliefs that goes along with it. Without freedom of expression, it is impossible to maintain a democratic society: when it is possible to silence dissent, it is equally impossible to maintain the flow of ideas that is necessary to allow an informed public to make informed decisions. Thus it is imperative that such freedom be maintained, perhaps even to an excess. The protection of speech ought to always be a priority, and the burden of proof should rest heavily on those who would seek to limit freedom of speech. The question must not be, “But what benefit does this bring, compared to the harm it does?” but rather, “But what harm is great enough that its prevention warrants a descent into tyranny?” While I will not pretend that any curb on rights of expression will inevitably degenerate into tyrannical government, it is historically through the careful control of information and speech that tyrants come to be- in order to manage a single-party state, one must demolish all opposition, and the only way to do so is through the control of who can get what information. It then becomes far easier to censor the unsavory details of such regimes, and the ideological domination of the populace becomes a simple thing. I believe that freedom of expression should be as protected as is possible, perhaps not the incitement of violence and chaos (can’t yell fire in a crowded theater [assuming, of course, that there is, indeed, a lack of fire]), but certainly unsavory ideas of all stripes should be afforded protection. This protection must take the form of a widespread commitment to the principles of democracy and freedom, and it is our duty as citizens to maintain this commitment. These are dark times, and the storms of intolerance are brewing on the horizon, but it is now more than ever that we as a nation must stand tall and refuse to sink to the depths of those who would destroy freedom. It is our duty not to sacrifice freedoms (as those who would have us believe that freedom isn’t free might suggest) but rather to embrace them, to wholeheartedly cling to the freedom that distinguishes our society from others. It is through the act of reaffirming our freedom, of declaring once more our commitment to free expression, that we may truly celebrate our freedoms. We should embrace discord and disagreement over the proper course for the nation: the least patriotic among us is he or she who believes that another is unpatriotic for disagreeing with the government. It is the very act of exercising freedom that affirms it, and those who would hold that it must be sacrificed in order to preserve a larger vision of “America” have the issue backwards. It is only by affirming America as a land of freedom, intellectually, socially, and politically, that we become truly free.
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