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Free Speech is not a Warm Blanket

Amendment 1 of the United States Constitution reads as follows:

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.

This past weekend, a group known as Unite the Right decided to march in protest to the planned removal of a Confederate statute in Charlottesville, Virginia. The march ended in tragedy.

Unite the Right, a white supremacist group, along with other white nationalist groups, KKK affiliates, anti government militias, and neo-nazis, marched through the streets of Charlottesville and the campus of the University of Virginia, waving burning tiki torches and chanting about saving the White race. By Saturday morning, the groups were met by counter protesters and fighting began amongst them. The police responded without force. The fights escalated when a man drove his car through the crowd of counter protestors. People were hit and injured. A young woman died. The police managed to apprehend the driver and disperse the crowds.

President 45 took a while to respond. He did not tweet his response, but rather held a conference where he stated that he condemned the violence, “on many sides” and was saddened by the tragic loss of the young woman. He did not call them white supremacists. He did not say domestic terrorism. He did not acknowledge in any way, that this tragedy was the direct result of White terror. Nope. He cited violence “on many sides.” The counter protestors were met with violence from the armed militia. They responded out of self defense. But let 45 tell it, there was violence “on many sides.”

This tragedy brought out the discussion of the First Amendment. The ACLU of Virginia put out a statement saying even though they do not agree with Unite the Right, they have to respect the group’s First Amendment rights because if that group’s First Amendment rights are taken away, then so will the First Amendment rights of the marginalized groups that the ACLU works to defend. Under this logic, the ACLU and many individuals believe that the First Amendment has to protect all speech, even hateful speech, in order to preserve the First Amendment rights of society.

Well, we saw what happened when all speech is considered protected under the First Amendment. People were hurt and someone died. We can go as far back as the previous election cycle and see what happens when all speech is protected. A racist, xenophobic, womanizer wins the highest title in the land, and hate crimes against marginalized groups increase. But under this premise of “all speech is free speech” everyone should be able to say whatever they want right?

Contrary to popular belief, there is speech that is not protected under the First Amendment. The Newseum Institute listed nine categories of unprotected speech:

  • Obscenity
  • Fighting words
  • Defamation (libel and slander)
  • Child pornography
  • Perjury
  • Blackmail
  • Incitement to imminent lawless action
  • True threats
  • Solicitation to commit crimes

The white supremacists took to the streets of Charlottesville, proclaiming their love for the Confederacy, hate of minorities, and need for a celebration of all things White because they felt they had a First Amendment right to do so. They believed that their right to free speech took precedence over the safety of those they deemed unworthy. Their freedom of speech was allowed to be exercised without question or reprimand because it always has been. They knew that the law was on their side and will always be. Three years ago in Ferguson, Black people took to the streets to protest the state sanctioned murder of Mike Brown. They were met with armed police officers in riot gear. They were pepper sprayed. They were arrested. They were called thugs, lawless, troublemakers. There was a curfew put in place. The National Guard was called in. Protestors were called rioters. The scene was compared to a war zone. Charlottesville did not get that treatment. White people were allowed to walk the streets carrying armed guns and holding Confederate and Nazi flags. There was no riot gear. There was no pepper spray. No curfews. There were only 4 arrests.

The President of the United States did not condemn these groups. He did not say they were thugs, miscreants, lawless, troublemakers, or losers. He did not call for a ban on all foreign White people entering the country. He did not say domestic terrorism. He did not say anything comparable to a condemnation because he knows these groups are who voted for him. He knows these Confederate loving, minority hating, Make America Great Again individuals put him in office. He knows he was supported and counseled by David Duke, he gave Steve Bannon and Jeff Sessions jobs in his Cabinet. White supremacy is why he is in office. White supremacy is why he wants to cut funds to education, roll back the Voting Rights Act, and end Affirmative Action. President 45 would not dare condemn the very people who put him in office. Nope. That must be someone else’s job.

Throughout the weekend, there have been debates, Twitter arguments, and think pieces regarding the First Amendment right to free speech. Before Charlottesville, many people felt that all speech was free speech, whether they agree with it or not. Maybe some people still believe this. History teaches us differently. History shows that the belief that all speech is free speech has led to many deaths. This belief cost thousands of Jews their lives. This belief ignited fear in Black people throughout the South. This belief put LGBTQ individuals at risk of losing their lives. All speech is not free speech. You cannot say whatever hateful thing you want out of your mouth and think there will not be consequences. There are consequences. People die. History tells us that and Charlottesville showed that.

We say hate has no place here but America was rooted in hate. America thrives in hate. America was built on hate. Hate put President 45 in office. Hate and bigotry is allowed to have free reign in 2017. It is 2017 and despite those who want to believe #ThisIsNotUs, it is. It always has been. Until something truly changes, it will continue to be.

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No Ban, No Wall: Life in Trump’s America

He has literally only been in office for 10 days.

On Friday, January 27, his seventh day in office, Trump signed an executive order banning travel of people from Muslim majority nations, specifically Syria, Libia, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, Iran, and Iraq. The ban, which would prevent people from these countries from entering America for 120 days (4 months) and would also affect refugees who are applying for asylum and visas, was not well received by many Americans.

Many called this a Muslim ban, since the executive order singled out Muslim majority nations and has a clause within presumably protecting Christains and other religious minorities of these nations from the travel ban.

Once Trump signed the order, chaos ensued at airports when green card holders returned to American soil this past weekend. People were detained and faced deportation until a federal judge in New York declared that green card holders could not be detained since they were already legal residents of America.

The ban prompted nationwide protests at airports around the country as well as statements from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, British Olympian and Somalian refugee Mo Farah, and countless others.

This ban puts many refugees at risk for deportation and discrimination as well as sends a message to all foreign nations, that America is no longer the land that accepts your tired, poor, hungry, and huddled masses yearning to be free, as is inscribed on The Statue of Liberty. America is no longer the place to come seeking safety from war and harm.

When Trump signed this executive order, he essentially said fuck you to all refugees, immigrants, and the American people themselves.

He doesn’t want to unite the nation, he wants to divide it. His picks for top government positions have no clue what they are doing and are simply yes men and women.

To add insult to injury, this ban was signed on Holocaust Remeberance Day.

Also on Friday, Trump signed an executive order to begin construction on the border wall between U.S. and Mexico, seemingly fulfilling the promise that he ran on during his campaign.

So only 10 days in and we have an executive order to build a wall, an order to ban travel, as well as the orders to build the Keystone and Dakota Access Pipelines.

In only 10 days this administration has relayed the message that we aren’t the welcoming, safe country we once were. Instead we are a country who thrives on fearmongering and division.

America isn’t great again, and as evident by these first 10 days, I worry things will get worse.

Thank You Mr. President

In 2008 you ran on a platform of hope and change. Eight years later you still have hope for a country that is pressumably about to go into peril and disarray.

A young Black man with a funny name and extensive resumé, ascended to the highest position in the land. You are the first, but I fear you will be the last.

You showed class as people ran your name through the mud, disrespected you and your family, treated you like you weren’t the President of the United States.

They claimed you didn’t love America. You proved them wrong by your accomplishments.

The national unemployment rate was lowered. Jobs were added.

Don’t Ask Dont Tell was repealed.

The Affordable Care Act gave thousands of Americans health coverage.

Immigrant children were able to pursue their American dream with DACA.

The Defense of Marriage Act was repealed.

Osama Bin Laden was killed.

You repaired the relationship with Cuba.

You gave us your all. You left everything on the field.

I thank you. Thank you for the legacy you are leaving behind.

Thank you for inspiring us. Thank you for still having hope.

Thank you Mr. Barack Hussein Obama Jr.

 

 

Mayhem in Orlando

Christina Grimmie, 22 years old, former The Voice contestant. Dead

50 people. The Pulse Nightclub. Dead.

Orlando, Florida. The latest location of the latest mass shooting.

Two shootings in the span of 48 hours.

Two places a mere few blocks from each other.

Christina Grimmie rose to fame via Youtube with song covers of various artists. She appeared on NBC’s The Voice finishing third during season 6. She was at her concert at The Plaza, as the supporting act behind the band Before You Exit.

She signed autographs, greeted fans. She was shot dead by a man she never knew.

He had two guns, three magazines. Planned to kill Christina and others. Yet was tackled by Christina’s brother. Then he took his own life.

2 AM. The Pulse Nightclub. A prominent LGBTQ gathering place. Party goers were celebrating Latin Night, as Pride month continues.

They thought the initial shots were part of the music. Until they heard more.

No one knew the man. He was armed with an assault rifle. Bent on killing.

50 people dead, 53 injured currently. The deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

Why?

Why do people feel the need to kill. Why is it so commonplace in this country to hear about shootings and not bat an eye.

President Obama has been at a podium speaking on this too many times to count. Sandy Hook, Charleston, Fort Hood, the Navy Yard, Aurora, and more.

One report said he has had to speak 15 times about mass shootings, another report says 18.

Too many. Too many times. Too many lost lives.

For what?

America has shootings often. It is too much.

When will it end?

Will it ever end?

A 22 year old up and coming artist’s voice has been silenced and 50 other people voices as well.

Possible future Grammy winners, mothers, fathers, doctors, teachers, lawyers, professors, actors, advocates. Dead.

Futures lost. Lives stolen.

Do we talk about gun control, again?

Do we talk about mental illness?Islamic extremists? Christian extremists? Homophobia?

Where does the conversation begin again?

Do we wait for another mass shooting to have another conversation that does not get us anywhere?

What do we do? Here we are again. More dead. More lives lost. What do we do?

I don’t know if any of these questions can or will be answered.

I know I’m tired. I’m tired of innocence lost over foolishness.

Tired of being afraid to leave your home for fear of being shot by a madman or a crooked cop.

Tired. Just tired. We all are.

When will it end?

Hate crimes, injustice, terrorism.

When will it end?