This precious right

Nairi - Wyckoff, New Jersey
Entered on May 21, 2008

In the United States, where freedom of speech is inherently granted by our constitution, seemingly few adults ponder or deliberate upon this precious right. Simply speaking, it is often taken for granted. I on the other hand have been compelled to contemplate every aspect of my freedom to speak. At a young age, I understood that there were vast differences in the perspectives and parameters designated by my family members regarding my rights in general and specifically my right to express myself. My grandmother’s home was where I felt the difference the most.

My freedom of speech and expression were severely curtailed in my grandmother’s home. The old world mentality that a child should be seen and not heard prevailed. I weighed and measured my words. Regarding anything and everything, I was expected to give in without a single utterance. Her will was law. Open discussions or debates were not allowed and questioning her judgment or authority was a crime punishable by the silent treatment. I made every conscious effort to adhere to her rules, like a loyal subject, thereby avoiding the interminable “freeze”.

In stark contrast, my mother firmly believed in the individual right of self-expression. All subjects were open for discussion. I was encouraged to be intellectually and emotionally adventurous. I could freely ask for a variety of privileges and heatedly debate my worthiness. Freedom of speech, was not only tolerated, it was encouraged throughout. Self-expression, in all its forms, was revered. The rules in my mother’s household were simply altogether different.

As a young child, I was initially confused and disoriented during my transition from one home to the other. I would unconsciously mold myself to each household and their expectations. It would always take me a day or two to leave the other “way” behind and adapt anew. I struggled every week with this dilemma for years until I realized it was wrong. I believe that the freedom of speech is a necessary component in a child’s life. As a young child I feared my grandmother, and feared that any wrong statement would spark punishment.

Now as a woman of my own mind, I look back and realize she was only implementing what she thought was right, what she had been taught herself. Through time and generations, the acceptance for speech and free thought has progressed immensely. In the United States, where freedom of speech is inherently granted by our constitution, I do not take it for granted.