Archive for November, 2005


Freedom of Speech

I think this is a natural succession from the Freedom From Fear post. Fear is what limits our freedom of speech. Censorship is nothing more than the fear that people will repeat what they hear or that someone will be offended by what is said. I’m pretty sure the Bill of Rights doesn’t grant the freedom of speech as long as it doesn’t offend anyone. One of my favorite quotes is from a song Fern’s friend wrote. “PMAC (Parents Music Advisory Committee), you are not my parents and never will be.” Warning labels on music, videos, TV shows, and video games are really for lazy parents who don’t take the time to find these things out for themselves before allowing their children to listen to, play with, or view them. Putting an age limit on the purchase of such material is also wrong. If parents don’t know what their kids are buying, that’s their problem.

Here’s another one of my favorite quotes, this time by someone much more famous. Voltaire said, “I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Besides the whole perjury and yelling fire in a crowded room thing, I think people should say anything they choose and must be prepared to be judged by what they say. No one should ever have to apologize for their words if they mean them. In fact, it takes a much bigger person to stand behind a view that is unpopular than it does to apologize for making their true feelings known.


Freedom from Fear

Despite President Roosevelt’s carefully written and well-meaning words decades ago, I do not feel free from fear. In fact, I believe my government has become the personification of fear.

As a woman, I am afraid. I am terrified that myself or my child will be raped, become pregnant, and be forced to have the baby when the decision of what to do with our own bodies is finally taken out of our hands. I fear I have few advocates within the government. Women make up a small percentage of all three branches even though we are a little more than 50% of the population. Maybe affirmative action isn’t just for schools and businesses anymore. I am afraid that I will not be able to afford the health care that being a women entails – regular visits to a gynecologist, birth control, breast exams, etc… I am afraid that my child will eventually be sent off to fight in a war that has no merit, no benefit, and no hope of being “won”.

As an educator, I am afraid. I shudder at the thought that my lessons will have to be scripted to ensure that they are preparing students for standardized testing. I fear that I will be forced to pass students who have not earned a passing grade so that the “success rate” of the school looks good on paper. I already have too many students who come to me in 8th grade not being able to write a coherent sentence, form a decent paragraph, or read anything longer than two pages. I am afraid that I am failing them, that I am not doing enough to fight for them, and that in the end, this will be a less educated nation because I was too scared to stand up for them and therefore, lose my job.

As a citizen, I am afraid. I do not trust that those in government are looking out for the best interests of their non-corporate constituents. I do not believe that my tax money is being spent responsibly. I fear that accountability and transparency in government are things of the past and we are moving toward an era of secrecy and betrayal. I feel that my government is an intruder, not a protector. I am afraid that in 10 years, we will all be speaking Chinese. I am afraid to run for office because I know my privacy will be invaded, those around me will be targets, and every mistake I have ever made will be quietly scrutinized and made public when it suits my opponent.

We are not free from fear. We are a nation of people cowering under our beds, waiting for the White House to crash down around us any minute. We have become used to fear, almost comfortable with it, and do more to ignore it than to rid ourselves of it. Isn’t it about time we refuse to be afraid?


Do No Harm: Self

The idea that someone else has the right to decide what we do with or to our bodies is absurd. There is something to be said for the survival of the fittest, and there comes a time when compassion must be balanced with caution. Removing personal responsibility from the person can only be a recipe for a disaster. While there are people who mentally or physically cannot care for themselves, the majority of us should be on our own. That is not to say that help should not be provided to us, but whether to seek or accept that help is our responsibility. For any government to suggest that they have the right to limit our personal choices is arrogant beyond belief. To do so is to say, “we know better than you”, when in fact, they don’t.

If a person wants to end their life, it is their choice. In some situations, ending one’s life is the highest form of honor, in others, it is simply an act of mercy. If a person is experiencing chronic and unrelenting pain, dealing with a chronic or terminal illness, or suffering from a degenerative disease, the option to end their lives without consequence should be available to them. If someone wants to kill themselves simply because life has become too difficult for them, by all means, allow them to do so, after reminding them that their family will not be able to claim their life insurance. It is their life, and by definition, their choice, assuming, of course, that they are of legal age and not suffering from mental illness of some sort.

Chemical substances of any kind should be regulated, clearly labeled, and seriously considered before they are used. Organic substances, however, should be consumed at will. Each of us is responsible for what we knowingly put into our bodies. Why should anyone else get to decide how much I eat, drink, or smoke if I am doing it in the confines of my own home? We should all be held responsible for our own overuse as well. Medical conditions resulting from abuse of any substance should not be covered by the government, nor should the government be responsible for the detoxification or rehabilitation of anyone who overindulged.

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I am not perfect. I do my best to practice what I preach, but I am human. My mantra is, "DO NO HARM". I may not always succeed, but I will always try. My goal is to be a better person today than I was yesterday.

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