Pay for what you say

“There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch,” (Morrow, Friedman or Heinlein- you choose). This quote applies as much to free speech as it does economics- but while the First Amendment to our nation’s Constitution guarantees us the freedom to speak, is it truly free?

I submit that speech comes with a cost. The question then becomes: what is the cost and how and who determines the cost?

According to Encyclopedia Britannica, political correctness is “language that seems intended to give the least amount of offense.” “Political Correctness” was added to the vocabulary of the Communist Party during the Russian Revolution of 1917, designed to ensure that citizens would comply with the Marxist-Leninist doctrine.

In the 1970s, political correctness was more or less a form of self-mockery. Essentially you could have said something wrong but not known it until convicted of it by your liberal peers. Most of the time it would be using words like blind, deaf, short, or fat. In the 1990s, conservatives picked up the mantra and used it to admonish the liberal teachings in American colleges and universities. Therein lies the difference in cost.

Kathy Griffin posed holding what appeared to be the severed head of President Trump. Her cost? Losing her gig at hosting CNN’s New Year’s Eve telecast with Anderson Cooper.

Roseanne Barr expresses herself in a tweet about VJ [Valerie Jarrett]. What’s the cost? ABC cancels the reboot of her show, Roseanne.

Alabama State Representative Patricia Todd (D), posted a tweet during the gubernatorial primary implying that sitting Governor Kay Ivey is gay. Representative Todd had been offered a position at One Orlando Alliance which has since been rescinded as a result of her social media post.

In 2003, after serving for ten years, Navy Seal Brett Jones left the message “I love you” on his boyfriend’s voice mail. Those three words resulted in a discharge from the Navy.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, in Memphis, TN fifty years ago, while exercising his right to free speech fighting for civil rights.

At Kent State, in 1970, four students lost their lives and nine were injured while protesting the Vietnam war.

These people are all recognizable and it is easy to see what price they paid for practicing their right. But do you have to be someone of prominence to pay for what you say?

For the less prominent, social media – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – are wonderful outlets to express our thoughts, ideas, and ideals. But for us, the use of those platforms can come at a price. According to CareerBuilder, 70% of business use social media to screen potential employees. As many as 54% will not hire a person based on what they find in their social media accounts.

In a recent Twitter post, user @human_leech posted, “Before getting on my flight today, a dead soldier was carried off. Around 30 or so people gathered around the windows to salute him or cry. It didn’t move me. Fuck our troops. All these white folks crying over a killer while millions are oppressed by our military. Fuck imperialism”

This is the kind of social media post that would keep 54% of employers (including me) from even calling this young lady from Atlanta, GA in for an interview. Her speech is certainly not politically correct and to veterans, in particular, it is offensive.

But it is protected speech. Just like burning of the flag is considered “symbolic speech” and is protected by the First Amendment. But to many, that too is offensive.

In 2016, a Talladega, AL police officer found out what happens when you post a racial meme on social media. He posted two on his Facebook page, which violated the city of Talladega’s Social Media policy and caused him to be promptly terminated from the force.

I think there is something to be learned from the honesty of children and seniors. “Children say the darnedest things.” Yes, they do because they have not been taught not to. So, when your three-year-old says that man has a big nose, that man probably has a big nose. The same is true of seniors, not because they don’t know better, but because they know it doesn’t matter.

I look at it this way: when my 95-year-old grandmother told me I was fat, instead of getting mad at her, I used her words as motivation to lose thirty pounds.

One of my favorite photos of my father is of him and my grandfather on open air combine, and just this week several transfer trucks passed by my workplace with antique farm equipment. As the trucks passed, I made the comment: “there goes an antique cotton picker.” I had the remote thought that someone was going to think that I was referring to a black person, and almost immediately, one of my colleagues replied. “You can’t say cotton picker.”

There is an antique machine being transported down highway 231. It is called a cotton picker because it picks cotton!

Whether it is the communist revolution, the 1970 liberals or the 1990 conservatives, we, as a Nation, have become too sensitive. We should embrace respect, decorum, and of course, common sense.

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