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Freedom of Speech Was Once Revered. Now, It's Feared.

Karen is a freelance writer and artist, with a special interest in social issues and the political landscape

We may be not only afraid of our own mind entertaining new, unique, or differing ideas and viewpoints, as though it places us in some awful peril, but it seems we are fearful of other people's minds opening as well, those we know, like family and friends, and people in our community and society in general. Those who voice viewpoints that conflict with ours are now often seen as The Enemy. Our old comfort zones have now become deep trenches on the battleground in the war on free speech and some are panic stricken to peer over the edge.

Censorship is increasingly accepted and encouraged. There was a time (it does not seem long ago to me) when a phrase commonly said was “I may not agree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” We now dread speaking up to defend freedom of speech. Why have we become so uncomfortable with free speech and expression? It seems to actually promote anxiety in some to read articles or hear speakers who hold radically differing ideas and opinions than they do. This may be a fear of becoming confused; shaking up comfortable opinions that have a stronghold in our mind can be disconcerting or even lead to cognitive dissonance which can be disturbing. It is a fear we need to face and a risk we must take. It is no sign of weakness to maintain a flexible curious mind, allowing it to entertain and mull over viewpoints that may be distressing or beliefs that may be alien to us.

Censorship in any form discourages the open mind and invites authority figures to decide for us what we should read, listen to, write, or laugh at, and many are eager to take on the roll. When young people are told what to think and believe instead of being guided through the reasoning process and learning how to weigh evidence on issues, their decision-making skills don’t ripen and mature, leaving them compliant, dependent, and unable to make decisions about their own lives, and sadly even reluctant to try.

What began as society's yappy little watch dog, today’s Cancel Culture has morphed into a snarling Hellhound. This is hobbling our youth socially and intellectually. Who can blame a college student for being terrified to voice what may be deemed a radical opinion? What if someone becomes offended or triggered? They are seeing in the media and all around us people being ostracized and shamed, sometimes for just asking questions or investigating stories or sources that don’t align with the popular narrative du jour.

A broad-minded adult can listen calmly and fearlessly without judgement or criticism, and even temporarily suspend personal values, until all sides of any issue, viewpoint, or theory have been heard and scrutinized. Religion, current events, politics, philosophy, science, etc. No subject is an exception. We should feel excited to welcome an opportunity to stretch and exercise our mind and sharpen our brain this way. The Sunday crossword puzzle is no substitute.

Why do some feel threatened or become enraged when others refuse to stay silent, exercising the fundamental human right and privilege of freedom of speech we grew up enjoying? Whenever we comply, we are uncomfortable with those who refuse. We see in them a boldness that accentuates our robotic meekness and dwindling spirit. The wilderness of fringe ideas is not a territory for cowards in this sadly stifling world being created right now, it is a land for the brave adventurous soul.

A truly free mind thinks without a net.

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Free your Mind.



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