Tag: freedom

Free Speech, but Who’s Listening?

It’s March 14. This is the one month anniversary of yet another school shooting in the United States. (It’s also Pi Day.) And a multitude of people exercised their freedom of speech in cities large and small across the country.

Free speech is important. It gives voice to every marginalized and under-served group. In this case, it even let the dead speak again.
But what good is free speech if no one is listening?


This is the thought that occurred to me while I watched the news and scanned videos people posted online.
I read the signs of protesters on the lawn of the U. S. Capitol. Some were catchy. Some were old news. Others made no sense to me at all.

Then I wondered, “Are any of the elected officials who represent the people flooding this grass watching this? Are they listening to what the citizens are saying?”

I had to smile a little at some people who were watching from the sidelines. Making a silent protest for oppositional views because it seemed to make more sense.

Silence as free speech?

Why not? They were likely heard as well as those hollering and shaking their signs.

Because to be heard, someone must listen.

So, America, who’s listening?

I don’t post political or argumentative blogs or memes or articles. Not because I don’t have opinions (uh, anyone who knows me, feel free to sound off about this in the comments). It’s not even because I don’t want to “offend” anyone (because I probably offend plenty of people by staying quiet).

My brand is one of encouragement and hope. I write stories where right wins in the end. Love prevails. Life isn’t perfect and all the pieces don’t fall into place, but there’s a happy ending.

Because there’s plenty of the unhappily-ever-after in real life. I don’t want to read about it, so I’m certainly not going to write about it.

That doesn’t mean I don’t tackle tough subjects. In LOVE’S LATE ARRIVAL, my characters face bullying, prejudice and actual assault. Things weren’t calm and easy for them. One reviewer even commented on this being the “gritty side of Sweet Grove.”
Guess what? The world is a gritty place. And the people with grit are the ones who’ll survive in the end.


That’s a common theme in my stories.

Of course, if you haven’t read them, you wouldn’t know. Because if you don’t listen to what I say, you can’t know what I think, how I feel or what’s important to me.

The same can be said of people who speak against guns, abortion, violence, discrimination, harassment or a multitude of other topics that have become “issues” in our world.

On the flip side, if we never listen to those who speak in favor of any of those topics, we won’t know why they think or feel as they do. What is their story? Why are they on the opposite side of the fence from me?

Maybe if we stopped thinking about our own argument and just heard what they said, we could find a middle ground. Or maybe not. Some things need extreme answers.

But there will never be answers as long as no one listens to the questions.

We’ve all had a conversation with that person who starts talking every time we take a breath. They don’t address anything we say or ask, but they do push forth their agenda, their ideas and their programs.

How do we feel during that conversation? Angry? Irritated? Frustrated?

Unheard? And thus unimportant?

It’s no wonder that their is so much division and arguing and discontent in our country. The majority of people are being ignored (or at least feel as if they are).

Sure, they speak. But no one listens. How do I know? Because the political, religious, economic and racial agendas keep being pushed forward. And no one addresses the concerns of the average person.

You can’t address what you don’t hear.

I applaud the founders of the U.S. for pushing for a Bill of Rights to protect free speech (as well a numerous other liberties). I wish they would have written in a clause mandating listening (with the intent of hearing and understanding not debating or rebutting).
Apparently, you can’t legislate listening any more than you can legislate morality.


Do you have a sure-fire way to be heard when you speak? Give it up. Let’s figure out a way to employ it with Congress.

An Icon Passes

It’s been more than two years since I researched the life and times of human rights activist, Nelson Mandela. Some of his quotes inspire me still.

In fact, reading about his prison experiences reminded me sharply of the Apostle Paul.  They both spent years in prison, but while they were there they refused to give up hope. In fact, they wrote letters encouraging others to keep fighting the good fight.

Mandela’s story has a happier ending. I was inspired by the movie Invictus to discover the actual truth behind the man. It was a fascinating, enlightening, heartening, inspiring and infuriating journey.

Fascinating

I’m not a history buff. I had heard Mandela’s name bandied about, but I didn’t know him from Malcolm X in the scope of beliefs and actions.

He was called the Black Pimpernel because he kept managing to disappear whenever the authorities closed in on his location. As a literary nerd, the allusion  to The Scarlet Pimpernel grabbed my attention.

Enlightening

Injustice happens everywhere. If I spent all my thoughts and energy learning about the various examples of man’s inhumanity to his fellow man, I’d have nothing left for anything else. Further, I’d be so depressed or enraged; it wouldn’t be healthy.

Why had I never connected the dots that apartheid stemmed from the Dutch colonization of South Africa? The same movement toward colonizing the far reaches of the world that led to the birth of the United States of America hatched tyranny in many other places.

Heartening

Forgiveness, or the lack thereof, is a huge problem. If religious people with different beliefs could truly practice it, wars between factions could cease.

This is what Mandela embodies in my own mind. He walked out of prison and chose to forgive those who put him there. Did this mean he suddenly endorsed their viewpoint? No.

He understood that the future can look to the past for assistance but it cannot hold onto the grievances of the past. He didn’t want to kill his enemies; he wanted to learn to peacefully coexist with them.

Some ideologies had to die on both sides for this peace to be won. Compromise doesn’t have to be a bad thing. If Mandela had come at his opponents with guns of retribution blazing, all would have been lost. By being a man of character, he won the respect of his adversaries and eventually of an entire nation. Perhaps, an entire world.

Inspiring

Role models abound. Down the street, across the country and in the far corners of the world. The ones who make the news win the Nobel Peace Prize. The rest of them have an even greater reward waiting in eternity.

Mandela is hardly the first person to suffer imprisonment for disagreeing with the powers that be. He is not unique in continuing to be revered during his absence from society. Many have suffered the same fate.

He inspired me because his wisdom was coupled with humility. He was adored by his fellow countrymen and feared by those who supported the fallen regime. He used his power to unite a country.

Old hatreds die hard. I pray Mandela’s ideology will continue in his homeland. I believe it will because true heroes inspire others to follow in their footsteps

Infuriating

As every good American can claim, I am a melting pot of cultures. I have ancestors that sailed on the Mayflower and ones who walked the Trail of Tears. Their pain and discovery opened the door into the world where I now enjoy freedoms they died pursuing.

Mandela was a product of colonizing forces, as well. His tribal ancestors were driven away and oppressed beneath apartheid. Fortunately, he believed in freedom and that true freedom meant forgiving his oppressors and learning to work toward a common goal.

What gives us the right to walk into a society different than ours and decide it needs our assistance? What makes one culture superior to another? Who can judge such a thing?

Change is inevitable and most of the time, it’s for the better. It’s one thing to offer education and assistance to a culture that is struggling to survive because it lacks the knowledge to effectively utilize its resources. Forcing someone to yield to your ideologies is a whole different can of tyranny.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Related Posts:

Nelson Mandela, Rest in Peace

Long Live Peace. Long Live Nelson Mandela

Discovering the Freedom Trail

Where the Trail Begins
Image from catchthewinds.com

Boston, Massachusetts, city of historic significance, offers a unique perspective on the issue of freedom. Most specifically it speaks to the quest for freedom in the New World.
There is a red brick path that circles for two and one-half miles through the streets of Boston. Strewn along this marked pilgrimage are bronze markers and numerous monuments to the Revolutionary War and our founding fathers. This trek enlightens the seeking soul – or at minimum – educates the enquiring minds who read the words left behind from our forebears.
My husband an I started at the end of the trail. This kept us meeting up with a parade of people who had started their journey  in the Boston Commons.  At least we didn’t get held up by a string of people less motivated to conquer the trail.
The trail ends – thus began for us – at the Bunker Hill monument. How often does a monument mark the site of a battle that was lost? This 221 foot tall obelisk, a shorter version of the Washington Monument, does just that.
It stands atop Breed’s Hill. (I know you’re wondering why it’s the called the Bunker Hill monument – you and millions of other people). This place where revolutionaries lost to troops of superior number and armament holds inspirational value because it proved that the British army wasn’t invincible. After all, it took them three tries and half their men to overrun the fortification.
Freedom has never been free. It demands a ransom paid in blood. Whether the blood of soldiers or the blood of a Savior, freedom’s immense, innate value requires sacrificial lives to acquire.
It would be cheapened if it could be bought with perishable silver or gold.
“If the Son shall make you free; ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).
In America, freedom loses its preciousness because the generations that fought to preserve it are passing away. The younger generations despise war and want to barter for freedom some other way.
It can’t be done. Not that anyone should be a warmonger, but as long as men (I mean mankind here; this is not a push for women rulers) rule the world, war will be necessary. Greed for power, wealth or land will drive some men to oppress others and only warfare will release them from these chains.
It may be a warfare fought with marches and protests, speeches from platforms or guns and bombs. People will be called upon to lay down their lives. The price of blood will be paid. Freedom will be won.
Is there another way to teach our children to value freedom so they won’t need to learn its pricelessness through oppression and warfare? When many of them refuse to stand in honor of the flag or recite the Pledge of Allegiance, their patriotism wanes.
On The FreedomTrail, I discovered and rediscovered the names and stories of many patriots, valiant men and women, who forged into the bloody unknown so there would be a country called the United Satates of America. They marched against king and country, an oppressive regime, emboldened by the pursuit of life and liberty to birth a nation now represented by thirteen stripes and 50 stars.
How much does freedom mean to you? Are you willing to pay the ultimate price so those children who refuse to honor Old Glory with twenty-two words spoken as they stand, hands over hearts?