Freedom to Speak, if I may, about the Freedom of Speech

I feel like a lot of people have been misusing the First Amendment. I’ve heard many people throughout my life use the “Freedom of Speech” claim to excuse themselves from unpopular opinions they might hold. It doesn’t sound like many of them have read the Constitutional Amendment they are citing. If they had, maybe they didn’t understand it fully. Maybe they had someone interpret it for them in grade school and the interpretation was mucked. Maybe they heard someone else use “freedom of Speech” as a scapegoat and they decided to do it too. Whatever the case, I think it is vitally important to the future of our country to understand this Amendment and use the “Freedom of Speech” claim properly.

To properly understand and interpret anything we must consider context. For example, as a classical musician, when I am performing a piece of music it is near impossible of me to perform an authentic interpretation of the song if I do not first research the composer, the time period, the performance norms of that time period, the history of notable performances, and any changes to performance norms of that piece since it’s composition, in great detail. The more information I have for the context of the piece of music, the more genuine and authentic I can interpret and perform it.

For the interpretation and understanding of something as significant and vital to millions of peoples’ lives and well-being as the US Constitution, we should undergo the same process. We need to consider all the context we can. Too often I hear people throw out the phrase “Freedom of Speech” as a justification for their expression, but they couldn’t tell me the actual words of the Amendment, let alone its meaning. Let’s consider the words, the context in which they were written, and how they apply to our modern society.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

There are a lot of parts to this. To understand it, lets break it down into parts and make it more visually appealing. (That always helps)

Congress shall make no law;

  • respecting an establishment of religion
  • prohibiting the free exercise thereof [religion]
  • abridging the freedom of speech
  • [abridging the freedom of] the press
  • [abridging the] right of the people peaceably to assemble
  • [abridging the freedom] to petition the Government for a redress of grievances

The first two points are talking about Freedom of Religion. Religion, when you consider it on a more global, infinite, unlimited perspective, is really the organization of your beliefs. So though our Founding Fathers wrote this with religious Churches and places of holy worship in mind, I think the progressive and modern interpretation has to consider “Religion” as personal spiritual beliefs, especially considering the rise of Atheist and Panthiest spiritual practices.

This means that our government cannot make a law which establishes a religion, or which keeps others from practicing religions. That sounds contradictory and confusing to most modern speakers. Historically, what could this have meant? There is a long history of the church being tied up with the state. Our founding fathers came here from England. England has a history of changing religions when a new family assumes power. Example, prior to 1509, Henry VIII was a Catholic. He married a Catholic Spanish Queen. During their reign, practicing any other religion openly was punishable by death. In 1509, he established, through his “Divine Right” the Church of England. He did this for purely selfish and Patriarchal reasons– so he could divorce his Queen and remarry Anne Boleyn–a secret protestant. England was forced to convert to the Church of England. Catholics who protested or criticized the King for his betrayal of the Vatican and the Pope were put to death for heresy. When Henry’s daughter, Queen Mary, took the throne after her father and brother, she went on a rampage to hunt down all the Protestants, and many of them were sentenced to die for their beliefs. Her younger sister Queen Elizabeth took the throne and the whole country went protestant again. Though Elizabeth is historically seen as more tolerant the the other Tudors, many Catholics died under her rule for their beliefs. The Church of England is still around today. It was established by a government.

England is the country our Founding Fathers came from. Understanding the history of their country–their establishment of one central religion and persecution of all others– can understand what an otherwise contradictory sounding statement means. The government is not allowed to make a law which respects the establishment of a religion, or prohibits the exercise of it. In simple words, the US government cannot own or represent or establish any one religion, as was done in England. Similarly, the government cannot make any laws which keep individuals from practicing their religion, regardless of what that religion is. The government is not allowed to be involved with personal beliefs.

The final four points of the First Amendment go together. They say, the government cannot make a law which infringes upon our freedom to speak, freedom to be published, freedom to peacefully congregate and make up a petition of grievances.

Once again, lets looks at the Founding Fathers’ context. In England at that time, to speak out against the King, the Royal Family, The Church (which was entwined with the Royal Family and, politically, with the Monarchy) was considered High Treason, and was punishable by death. The Founding Fathers recognized that this was not a healthy environment for political success on behalf of the People. In fact, it was a tyrannical environment. Those who protested were risking their lives and often killed. Those who wrote pamphlets about how to improve the state of their country were risking their lives. Anyone who spoke out was risking High Treason. Even the wrong opinion at a cocktail party in front of the King’s men could get you hanged if they needed a reason.

The First Amendment was put in place so that the people could protest the government without being tried for High Treason when they say something negative about the government. Our right to Freedom of Speech is about speaking out about the government. Our right to the press is our right to publish things against the government. Our right to peacefully assemble is our right to protest. Our right to petition our grievances means we get to tell the government when we don’t like what they’re doing, and they cannot throw us in jail for it.

I want to point this out because it seems like many people believe that the First Amendment is protecting our right to speak our opinions to each other. Often, I will hear people justify hate speech toward other citizens with the phrase “Freedom of Speech.” This isn’t at all what the Founding Fathers were thinking about when they wrote the First Amendment, I would bet money. I fear our true 1st Amendment right has been so blurred and stretched and reinterpreted we’ve forgotten what it was put in place for. The purpose of the first amendment was to give us the lawful right to protest our government, not to justify the use of ignorance and hate speech toward citizens.

The “Freedom of Speech” scapegoat is so overused, some people actually use it as an avoidance tool. The truth is, we’ve always been allowed to talk shit on other people. We’ve always been allowed to sling hate speech at another citizen. (Do you bit your thumb at me, sir?) The Founding Fathers were probably not thinking about whether or not they could call someone a mean name and it started a gun duel and someone died. There’s an easier solution to that–make it illegal to kill people and make all humans suffer the consequences of their actions. Your right to say basically whatever you want in public is protected by laws against violence, assault, and murder, not by the First Amendment.

You were always allowed to talk shit on a fellow citizen. Sometimes, it makes you an asshole, but its not really against the law and we certainly didn’t need to put it in the constitution.

Your right to be an asshole is not what the Founding Fathers had in mind when they wrote the First Amendment.

The Constitution was not written to be the law of the people. The government writes those laws. It was a philosophically and politically researched collection of rules for the Government to follow so that we could remain a true democracy. It was written in the perspective of the people, but its a guideline for the government. This is a guideline which would hopefully prevent any level of corruption from turning the Founding Fathers’ precious Democratic brain child into an oppressive Monarchy, or a censored Tyranny, or an Oligarchic Servitude. A brilliant idea–until the guideline itself became corrupted by misinterpretations and reinterpretations.

All this to say, stop claiming Freedom of Speech when you’re expressing an opinion against another citizen. That’s not Freedom of Speech, so much as its just you speaking. Know that if you say something cruel or ignorant, you are an adult making a decision and there may or may not be consequences for that decision depending on who you say it around. The consequences will not be delivered by the government, but it doesn’t mean your fellow citizen owes you, or your opinions, respect. The consequences of speaking an ignorant opinion in the wrong crowd is pretty basic–you’re probably not going to be a part of that crowd anymore unless you are willing to be humbled by them. That has nothing to do with the government. That has to do with being a decent person.

Don’t use the First Amendment to oppress other people, or to justify your hateful words and bigoted expressions. It was made for the opposite–to unite and strengthen the people against their government. The proper understanding of our Constitution is necessary to maintain Democracy.The misuse of this Amendment is threatening Democracy. We are already an Oligarchy, and most of the lowest classes are living as indenture servants to the work force and the Banks simply so they can survive.

PS, the 2nd Amendment was made with the same intention in mind. Not so you could protect yourself against criminals like a civilian vigilante, but so you could rise up against your government if another revolution becomes necessary–which the more lucid they get with these interpretations the closer we are to revolution. Also, it has nothing to do with regulations, it just makes sure the government can’t ban all citizens from owning guns. The Second Amendment doesn’t protect anyone from the necessary regulation of weapons purchasing–just says that we’re allowed to own them for the purpose of the Second American Revolution.

Treat Others as They Wish to be Treated

I’m calling out an old cliche.

“Treat others how you’d like to be treated.” I’m calling bullshit–here’s why.

When men treat women a certain way, which is deemed by the woman to be disrespectful, men often justify their actions with “Well I would enjoy that kind of attention from a woman”. This is in regards to catcalling, unwanted physical contact in public spaces (like grabbing an ass or grazing a boob), sexual/rude remarks, etc. Men might want that attention, and so they assume women would like it too.

Almost every woman you ask will agree, this is not the case.

Women have a history of being violently and sexually aggressed toward. When men act a certain way toward us in public, we have to laugh and act like its not a big deal because to tell them how wrong they are, to ask them kindly to stop, or to give them attention in any way could, and most likely will, get a response that is less than wanted–like being spoken to by a stranger, being approached by a stranger, being harassed by a stranger, being followed, being targeted, being beaten, being raped, being murdered, having our bodies left in a field to be eaten by wild animals and later have our mourning families idetify our remains by no more than birth marks and tattoo placement. We’ve been told our whole lives to react in a way that won’t get us raped or killed, because we’ve all heard the stories about how its a woman’s fault she was raped. We’ve always heard about how the man might not have done it if the woman hadn’t provoked him in some way. So we give simple and pleasing reactions to mistreatment by men to avoid being endangered. We are trained to react to male aggression with a smile, a giggle, and a cold shoulder when really, we’d like to slap you and cuss your dumb ass out.

This is an example, one of so so many, of why we cannot always treat people how we’d like to be treated.

When we do this, when we assume that people would like to be treated how we would like to be treated, we are assuming that they are a person like us, with experiences like us, lives like us, beliefs like us, etc. We cannot always treat people how we would like to be treated. Sometimes, we need to treat them how they want to be treated, how they ask us to be treated. All this within reason, like if they’re asking to be treated like a God and have grapes placed into their mouths and a fanboy, well nobody’s got time for that and nobody owes anybody else that. But if they’re simply asking you not to make racist jokes, to use different pronouns instead of assumed pronouns, to call them by a different name than the one you’ve always known them by, not to speak to them in a certain manner, they’re telling you how they’d like to be treated. They’re telling you who they are. It’s not politically correct to acknowledge their preference and use it, its simply respectful to who they are as a human in this lifetime. Political Correctiveness is a myth created by people who fear change and progress.

In regards to simple things like kindness, sure we can treat others how we’d like to be treated. However, even then, someone else might see something as an insult that someone else sees as a kindness. Don’t treat people how you’d like to be treated. Treat them with kindness and respect. Treat them how they express they’d like to be treated. Do not assume their life and experiences are like yours and that you can just gaslight or manipulate someone into accepting your treatment. Be better than that. Be a part of our shared humanity. Empathize, long enough to realize our shared reality is a diverse one even if your single reality is a direct and one-track reality. That’s how its supposed to be.

So really, nobody is asking anyone to be politically correct, we’re asking everyone to be respectful of who people know themselves to be and treat them the way they wish to, and deserve to be treated. If you create a safe space for people to tell you how they’d like to be treated, they will reveal their true selves to you, and that is a gift to the entire world.

Our generation is acknowledging and bringing light to the beauty of our differences. We’re asking to be acknowledged as humans, defaults to society, acceptable to exist in a world set up against us. It’s not political correctiveness. Its kindness, respect, and common decency. To not treat someone how they wish to be treated because their identity gets in the way of your beliefs is not Godly, or Christian, it is judgmental and selfish.

 

Fire and Ash Remains

Fire and Ash Remains

I couldn’t stand up,
You weighed on me so heavy.
So I just stayed down
To wait until I was ready.

The strain of your love
Wasn’t something I could levy
So I blame your “love”
For the fact that I’m not steady.

You lit up my world,
But the whole thing caught flame.
For me it was real,
For you–just a game.

You left me on fire,
My anger to hold alone.
You thought I’d expire,
But now I call the fire “home”.

I adapted and survived,
Though for a time I turned to stone.
Now I’m made of fire and thrive
From the inferno of my mind’s catacomb.

No reality could have prepared me
For this life living inside these flames,
But from all of the lives I have lived before,
Only fire and ash remains.

-Rachel Blair

Desperation

So much of what I do seems desperate
And I trick myself, it’s fine.
But when it becomes time to rest it
Desperation comes back to my mind.

My mind is fearing, I’m crippled
By doubt and insecurity.
The effects of which have rippled
And my person is wracked with dis-ease.

To attempt to make sense of this madness
I construct theories from thoughts I’ve mined,
The ends of which is infinite sadness
When the conclusion is all that I find.

So back to this desperation
Which spins me around and around
And seeks for, but fails full formation
Of fair trees grown in solid ground.

I believe its a calling for journey,
For travel and experience.
A trip at which I’ve just hit the entry.
A future that is much more mysterious.

-Rachel Blair

I never wanted to be Her.

I never wanted to be Her.

I never wanted to be the Her you spoke of crudely.
I only ever wanted your love.
But you spoke to who I was so rudely
And it stifled what I am made of.

I never wanted to be a man-hating feminist.
You spoke about them like they were dirt.
But if you hadn’t always been such a misogynist,
my perception of men would be so hurt.

I never wanted to be your failure,
just my own heart’s seeker for success.
But expectations made me quiver,
and now passion, I feel less and less.

I never wanted to be a disgrace,
reminding you of your darkest hour.
But when I look into your face
I see decades of greed seeking power.

I never wanted to be an outsider–
speaking out against the crowd.
Now I’ve become a freedom writer,
Braver than ever, strong and loud.

I never wanted to be Her–
the girl you spoke of with such distain.
You challenged me, but couldn’t conquer,
though your attempts left me in horrendous pain.

You stomped out all my truth,
and planted lies inside my brain.
But that Girl was never my enemy,
and from Her, a divine woman will remain.

-Rachel Blair

 

Our New Tower of Babel

Our New Tower of Babel

11 Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward,[a] they found a plain in Shinar[b] and settled there.

They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”

But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building.The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”

So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel[c]—because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.

-The Bible, New International Version

The story of Babel is a pretty straight forward anecdote, it seems. This story depicts how God confused humans with language to keep them from being able to reach the kingdom of heaven. This story was always simplified to me as the creation of different languages.

Its interesting, because the entire point of the Bible is so that people can eventually create a relationship with God and reach the kingdom of heaven through that relationship, through faith, through hope–through love. However, the point of this anecdote, I believe, is that we cannot reach the kingdom of heaven externally, and though we can encourage each other, we each need to find Heaven on our own through an inner journey.

Depending on your personal theology, Heaven could be a place you go when you die, or a place you know when you’re living. It could be the place where you sit eternally in the right hand of the father God, or it could be finding a peaceful state of mind in your everyday life to ease the suffering of existential living. It could be the completion of a cycle of Samsara, it could be enlightenment, it could be empathy and understanding. It could simply be inner-Love, leading to inner-peace.

Regardless of your personal ideas of Heaven, the successful means to achieving it is through inward reflection–not through outward achievement. Religion calls it prayer and meditation–developing and deepening your relationship with God, Goddess, Jesus, Buddha, Nature, self, the Universe– whoever or whatever you see as divine and unconditional Love. Psychology calls it mindfulness and credits it to calming the mind of its constant rotating function and slowing the function of the body to lessen stress and turmoil. Either way, it is achieved through making an individual and conscious choice to turn inward. It is a choice made by the one who will experience it and it is a choice made in the moment it is needed, which for some is constant.

What I find interesting is the evolution of these biblical anecdotes to fit our modern understanding. Nowadays, the issue they faced in the story of Babel is not an issue. We have learned to bridge the gap of languages. So, if we were to take this story literally, it might prove to show that we could reach the Heavens through combined intellect and group work. However, we know that sky scrapers and airplanes have not gotten us there. We know that space exploration has not gotten us there. We have far exceeded the attempt of the men of Babel to reach the kingdom of Heaven, and yet as a whole we know God, or divine Love, less than ever in many ways.

I think this story has its own evolution, and as we evolve and grown as a species it is important to recognize how this anecdote is relevant to us. I believe that, societally and individually, as our understanding grows there is still always something which keeps us from concretely knowing the great mysteries of the universe. There is always more to know and learn. This brings to mind the question–what is our barrier beyond language, and beyond that?

I believe that once we overcome the confusion of world languages, the next factor of confusion is a different type of language. This is the language of understanding. Now, the differences between English, Spanish, Italian, Tagalog, Japanese, etc. are difficult, but not impossible barriers to overcome. However, within those languages, we speak many other languages linked to our personal understandings of the realities we individually and collectively experience.

Religious dogmas from many different origins have great similarities in their message, in their concept of divinity, in the means to getting there. The thing that keeps us from collectively bringing our thoughts together at that point is this difference in truths and our inability to acknowledge there is more than one way of living a divine life, there is more than one way to develop a lasting relationship with the Love in ourselves and the universe.

For example, Christians often talk about The Truth, The Way. Traditional Christianity believes their means of finding God, their understanding of God, is the only one. So, while many Christians might be incredibly tolerant of other religions, they do not believe that what they have found and what another enlightened person has found are the same thing.

I have a dear friend who is Christian and tell me all about the many ways in which God speaks to her. When I tell her the many ways in which the Universe speaks to me, she discredits them as demonic and ungodly. Not because they are unlike the messages she is receiving, but because I believe the messages are coming from the Universal Divine and she believes hers are coming from God through Jesus.

We are all saying the same things. Almost all the time.

The most important messages which lie underneath every dogma are universal. Unconditional love. Forgiveness. Compassion. Charity. Grace. Faith. Trust. Hope.

These are the universal messages because they are necessities for our being–no mater what you believe yourself to be made of. My soul needs Grace, Faith, Hope, Trust, and Love. My mind needs forgiveness, compassion, charity, and empathy. My being as a whole relies on these things as much as it relies on food and water. The Human Condition is the undeniable craving we have for these things, and all beliefs seek to fulfill that need.

I believe the current “Tower of Babel” is this; we are building up our own beliefs and our own philosophies at the cost and expense of others’. We are allowing some religions to control others, some beliefs to dominate the world. Each dogma is building its own fortress of infrastructure with its beliefs–manipulating gospels to withstand the storms of time. But the pieces of the gospel that withstand the storms of change hold greater strength than the messages which need manipulation.

I think, throughout history, the need to gain a following for any one dogma has been partially motivated by the need to validate the inner experience. It is a task to validate one’s inner experience as real–as it is an abstract experience. So when we have a spiritual awakening, or a moment of clarity, or a conversation with God, or a sensation of love all around us, we need to tell someone about it and have them agree enough to validate, in a more tangible way, that the abstract experience we are having is real. The whole point of seeking that relationship internally is that is shouldn’t matter whether or not we have other people’s validation. Our experiences are real simply because we are experiencing them. It doesn’t matter that they’re not universal experiences of our shared reality. It doesn’t matter if the means by which you experience the divine is different than someone else’s, so long as it is pure and good and brings you peace.

Currently, the forces that be (God, Universe, etc.) are challenging us to see beyond separatism. The current state of our world is showing us the demonic powers of control, greed, fear, hate and individualism. God is tearing down our towers–every single one of them.

We are being reminded that no external power is as strong as the limitless potential that lies within each of us.

The Kingdom of Heaven (or whatever eternal peace you seek) cannot be reached externally, and it is not reached in only one manner. It must be reached internally, and the journey must be made alone. Each individual’s understanding of “God” will be as unique as the person themselves. Their understanding and path to Love will be a comforting collection of wisdom from their own experiences, influences, history, ancestry, and mental/emotional capacity.

If we are able to accept our differences, not as a threat to our identity and sense of reality, but as a difference of experiences and perceptions of reality, then we can bridge the gaps that currently divide our planet currently. We could empathize without ego. We could find purpose without false pride. We could collectively grow as a civilization, rather than watching the privileged defaults of our society constantly win at the expense of the “others”.

I believe the religion of the future will be much like some, less known dogmas have been in the past. It will not be one collective religion, but rather a collective understanding that all beliefs are equal so long as they focus around internal reflection, love, forgiveness, and the other universal messages which have withstood the storms of time in every religion and dogma. For these are the elements of existence which do not hold back or condemn any one group, but which allow us to peacefully coexist without the need to shine brighter or bigger than any other living being.

Every person should, essentially, be taught a variety of beliefs from which they can assemble their own toolkit for connecting with divinity. Some methods will work better for certain people than other methods–and that should be ok. It should certainly not be a means of persecution or isolation–so long as it doesn’t harm or take away freedoms from others.

If we can overcome this modern Tower of Babel and recognize that every being is divine, no matter how they seek it, we will be able to empathize, love, and coexist more peacefully–which will bring us closer to the kingdom of heaven–collectively–then we have ever been before.

The journey must be made alone. Divinity is found, first and foremost, within the Self.

 

 

 

A Narcissist Survivor’s Serenade

A Narcissist Survivor’s Serenade

Woe to abusers who claim innocence
and their victims who own the blame.
A paradox of such friction and dissonance,
this relationship has a name.
For one of these is a narcissist,
the other thinks they’re the same.
But the one who lies in the dark abyss
must bring others down to their plain.

You won’t know how to apologize,
if you ever even knew you were wrong.
The pain that hides deep behind your eyes
will be expressed through my endless song.
You couldn’t overcome, and you couldn’t rise,
so you created in me, a dying swan.
Your ego attempted to colonize,
and you’ll always think YOU moved along.

But I made the choice, and I left you there,
I’m healing, starting fresh, completely bare.
The things you did, they were not fair.
They tore me to ashes, alone and scared.
But my ashes ember in a deadly stare.
This wasn’t your work, don’t you even dare
act like you came in my life and answered a prayer.
Without you, I’d be where I deserve, I swear.

You bastard, you should live in the hell you made.
You created it for others when you were afraid.
Stop projecting your self hatred, here’s the blade.
Do your work, cut your own cord, give yourself a grade.
The lack of equality and empathy you displayed
was a testament to us, and still, you get paid.
This last song I sing for you in the bed you laid
is a narcissist’s love song–a Survivor’s serenade.