Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Freedom of Speech, Just Watch What You Say

By Keenan Mann

Take a look at the Facebook post below.  Its author is an elementary school teacher in McKinley, Texas, the scene of the recent meltdown of officer Eric Casebolt.  She posted the comments in reaction to news that Casebolt had resigned as a result of his actions and their aftermath:

I'm sure you can can guess what happened next, but just in case you're stumped, see the excerpt below from

"After the post went viral and the backlash began, Fitzgibbon apologized.

The district has since come out to issue a statement concerning Fitzgibbon's termination from the school:

Frenship ISD is deeply disappointed in the thoughtlessness conveyed by this employee’s post. We find these statements extremely offensive, insensitive, and disrespectful to our Frenship community and citizens everywhere. … The employee whose account is responsible for the post will be relieved of her teaching duties at Frenship ISD.”

Yep, she dared people to do something about her for having an opinion and they did - quickly and resolutely.  

I'm guessing those responsible for Mrs. Fitzgibbons' ouster see it as progress.  And perhaps it is rightly viewed as such if the aim is the suppression of unpopular opinions.  But if that is the aim, those who have deemed it a proper one might do well to heed the words of Michelangelo, who is credited with saying, "The greatest risk to man is not that he aims too high and misses, but that he aims too low and hits."

Could any good have come out of a conversation, with or without Mrs. Fitzgibbons, about the viewpoints she expressed. Maybe, maybe not. But I'm guessing no progress can come out of a conversation that we can never have because we're afraid to for fear of losing our jobs or being unfairly labeled.

We can certainly outlaw speech that runs contrary to popular opinion in the name of progress, but in the end, any progress we claim in that regard will be illusory.  

Sure, fewer people with controversial opinions will speak of them publicly, but their views then will largely go on unchallenged and unchanged.

It's not that I agree at all with what she said, but rather that I agree that she had every right to say it.

In the context of the First Amendment, I think those who called for her dismissal have acted in a way that is just as thoughtless, offensive, insensitive, and disrespectful as the behavior they condemned.

So who's the real enemy of progress?  The person who tells you what they think or the person who tells you what to think?

Seems pretty obvious doesn't it?


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