Speeches aren’t safe. To the contrary. Speakers have been killed because of how afraid others were/are of their message. Scorn can happen as well, which can be intimidating. Either way, say what you believe and then stand by it.
This isn’t a free speech post. I don’t need to argue for or against it. Free speech, as I see it, is the legal non-encumbrance of what we can say and where. True free speech is chaotic: We can’t say, “I have a bomb” in an airport without expecting trouble. But you knew that.
Instead, it is a deeper freedom. If we in the United States believe free speech is an inalienable right (and I do) we believe that all people everywhere already has this freedom. This means we are free to think of our speeches strategically, not confined or shackled.
Jesus did not say safe things. Christianity grew as a result of his death and subsequent resurrection despite the lack of safety in es
MLK did not say safe things. The KKK and other hate groups are still afraid of his ideas.
And nor did Allen Ginsburg when he published “Howl.” It’s a long poem with plenty of course verbiage and challenged a through an obscenity trial. Its value to society can be argued, but freedom of speech allows for it.
And Islamic terrorists regularly murder journalists who bravely defy liberal freedom of speech. Those journalists are martyrs.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr.‘s assassination, for example, highlights this danger. The particulars aren’t clear but racism is most likely the reason — and MLK’s effectiveness as a speaker forced white supremacists to fear they would lose their cause. There are few things white supremacists and terrorists fear like people openly telling the truth. While the likes of the KKK and their ilk are as lost of a cause as can be, King died a martyr for freedom.
If you look through my site, you’ll see I refer to him often, and include a number of his speeches in my favorites. To me, he is a hero.
Read Why James Earl Ray Killed Martin Luther King Jr.
Religion and Free Speech
Religion and faith, or the absence of it, is a key part of what makes America great. We fail there as much as we espouse it, but it is an ideal we Americans embrace.
Numerous outspoken journalists have been killed by Islamic terrorists who likewise feared their religion could not buffer criticism without violence. Their speech was via print and video media, but threatened exposure of the frailties of the terrorists’ views.
Jesus Christ himself met capital punishment by the Romans and Jewish leaders after he regularly spoke about what would become Christianity. Leaders saw the influence of Jesus and feared he’d change people’s minds.
Read Who Killed Jesus? The Historical Context of Jesus’ Crucifixion
Audiences aren’t safe either. A good speech will challenge them. It might scare them or cause them to cry. A speaker’s job isn’t to say easy, sugar-on-a-stick things. An inspirational speech lays out a problem and offers a solution, with no pretense the solution will be easy.
Sometimes we attend a speech expecting to be pushed. A Tony Robbins event is filled with people knowing Robbins isn’t there to tell them to keep doing what they are doing. No, no. His audiences know they want change and they expect him to show them how.
That’s not what I mean.
If in the 1970s, you attended a Billy Graham crusade, and were unexpectedly challenged, your life might turn upside down because of religious conversion.
Safety and the Free Speech Ideal
We want safety. Of course we do. We want free speech. Of course we do. Opposing views sometimes prefer we had neither. Know what you think. Know what you believe. Be ashamed of neither your idea or your beliefs. Be ready to respond intelligently when others try to shut you down.
Reject oppression. Support the freedom of those who disagree with you. Don’t agree to disagree but acknowledge that without their freedom, you’ve no freedom.
Oppression in 2023 is like oppression in any era. Russia, The Sudan, North Korea, China, and elsewhere make no pretense that they hate and will incarcerate those speak honestly. Reject that. Circumvent it, ignore it, and diffuse it.
Stand up, speak up, and press on.