Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Free Speech

I sat incredulous today after hearing that a 88 year-old man walked into the Washington D.C. Holocost Museum and opened fire. That shock worsened when I learned he denies the Holocaust, advocates white supremacy, and served time in Federal Prison as a result of kidnapping charges.

Let me start by stating, without equivocation, that the Holocaust inflicted on the Jewish people (as well as others) by the Nazi regime before and during World War II represents the nadir of humanity's self-abuse. The Holocaust IS a terrible blight on our history and must forever be remembered as an example of something we, as a species, must vigorously prevent until the end of days. There can be no doubt it was real, it was atrocious, and it was intentional.

Having said that, I worry that tragedies like today's shooting will intensify a public outcry for a prohibition on "Holocaust denial speech". While I think such speech is deplorable and needs to be out-shouted and corrected at every opportunity, I also think that folks must maintain their rights to speak freely until such time as their words threaten public safety.

I believe it no mistake that Freedom of Speech is guaranteed first by our Bill of Rights. The ability of our citizenry to voice all opinions and represent every possible viewpoint in debate must be preserved at all cost. While I agree that all of the rights preserved by the Bill of Rights can be limited as necessary, I also agree that the necessity must be severe and the must present a real threat to the public before such limitation.

I believe it our duty to find these haters, to repeatedly demonstrate the deceit and vitriol contained in their "beliefs", and to shame them away from the debates over and over again until they yield. But we must not take away their right to have such a skewed and flawed opinion, nor can we strip them of their right to voice that opinion. We must be better than that.