The power of free speech

I love Super Bowl Sunday. And not for the game itself. Or the parties. Or the commercials. But it’s a wonderful to actually be able to get a table with an outlet at whichever coffee shop your heart desires on State Street.

So, I’m taking advantage of this rare opportunity by stepping back for a moment and acknowledging the privilege that I am taking advantage of by publishing this blog. Over 200 years ago, our forefathers codified into this nation to a series of unalienable rights, including the freedom for all to speak without risk of government intervention, welcoming (at least in theory) differing opinions and views: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Our nation experiences such a degree of freedom that Tori Amos can go on a diva-rant about what a twat-hater the writer of Britney Spears’ Toxic is, in this November 2007 Blender.com interview. (As a sidebar: I would have to agree with her reasoning here. I mean, toxic shock syndrome is nothing to toy around with.)

As Americans, we eat this stuff up. It’s suddenly front-page news with Diane Keaton says “fuck” on Good Morning America, Amy Winehouse snorts up, or Brit-Brit continues her near-tragic plight — all of which I have, for the most part avoided covering in this blog. Granted, I am not innocent from feeling a certain degree of curiosity with these events, but in many ways, I am distubed to see what democracy has created in this country.

This is far from the case in other nations.

In China, blogger-activist Hu Jia was arrested in December for “subverting state power,” joining the ranks of at least 50 other online dissidents. His wife and two-month-old daughter have now been placed under house arrest and barred from accessing the Internet. Similarly, in Havana, Cuba, Yoani Sanchez continues to blog about life under stifling communist rule, using Internet cafes, alias and disguises in order to skirt the surveillance efforts of their government. And why does she continue to do it, constantly risking arrest, or perhaps even her life?

Yoani Sanchez, blogging from her Havana, Cuba apartment.

“The latest reflections of Fidel Castro have ended my patience,” Sanchez wrote on her blog, ‘Generacion Y’. “To try to evade or distance oneself from our problems and theorize about things that occurred thousands of kilometers away, or many years ago, is to multiply by zero the demands of a population that is tired, disenchanted and in need today of measures that alleviate its precariousness.”

The written word still has incredible power. Let’s not take that power for granted. It has the power to inform, to persuade and maybe even the power to change. Complacency? Apathy? Defeated. Let’s give the generations to follow something to talk about.

Download: Rage Against the Machine ‘Calm Like a Bomb’

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