EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is not a “fair and balanced” article. It is an editorial by the editor.
“Now you free speech boys can have your fun now, but after November the Fifth, ya’ll through.” — George C. Wallace on the 1968 presidential campaign trail, speaking to protesters.
It is long past time for me to try to clarify my positions on freedom of speech and the right to bear arms, which are at the heart of the First and Second Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
The venerable Townbroadcast columnist Robert M. Traxler, also known as Army Bob, has taken me to task more than once, even suggesting I am some kind of hypocrite on the issue of free speech when I have twice suspended a commenter known as “Don’t Tread on Me.”
Mr. Traxler is correct in asserting that I was a champion of free speech in my college days in the 1960s. However, what he overlooks is that my positions on free speech and the right to bear arms have evolved over many years.
As I have matured, I have come to believe that it is unwise to insist on absolutes, that life actually is more complicated than to view everything as simply black and white, hot and cold, right and wrong, good and evil, and so forth.
Army Bob and many like him offer us first-rate examples of binary thinking, which I described at the end of the previous paragraph. They often suggest to people like me, “You’re either with us, or against us.”
I reply by saying the truth about this lies somewhere in between.
For example, I sincerely believe that every U.S. citizen has a right to bear arms, but there is a serious need to examine whether it should be so in all cases. I vigorously support background checks, a waiting period for those who buy guns and most importantly, the restoration of the Brady Bill, which outlawed possession and use of assault weapons.
To be sure, these three regulations would not stop the gun death epidemic plaguing these United States, but I believe the staggering numbers would be reduced simply because access to such powerful and destructive firearms would be restricted. I am sick and tired of cowardly politicians doing nothing for so long while the body count continues to pile up.
I’m sure there are those who would say I advocate taking away guns, but I am not. I only believe they should be regulated, just like motorists legally able to drive motor vehicles.
When it comes to free speech, I believe once again in applying regulations because I don’t think anyone should be able to say whatever they wish without consequences. It’s a variation on the old saw, “You can’t yell ‘fire’ in a crowded theater,” unless it’s true.
As marketing and advertising, and therefore propaganda, has become more sophisticated in the modern era, it has become too easy for slick promoters and snake oil salesmen to exploit our human weaknesses and get us do buy things we don’t need or want, and therefore commit acts of treachery we normally wouldn’t, as we were warned long ago by Voltaire.
I submit a vision of a skillful orator in the tradition of fundamentalist or evangelical preaching style whipping his audience into a frenzy and then suggesting. “Let’s kill all the Negroes.” Or Jews.
Though the orator may not have committed the crime, he is guilty of inciting it. Neither Adolf Hitler nor Charles Manson actually committed the crimes they masterminded.
The gist of this entire explanation is that there is a need to avoid absolute adherence to freedom of speech and the right to bear arms. There is a need to issue regulations and guidelines to avoid the lawless free-for-all that too often ensues.
For me, it’s a matter of common sense.