Bullying and the 1st Amendment

speech

“Words do matter”, “words hurt”, “words can be more damaging than physical assault”, these are very common statements in the latter part of this decade. People that are made examples of are: everyone from political figures, to the bully in middle school. From what I understand, the 1st Amendment has been called into question—”does this right give people the platform to spew: racism, bigotry, sexism, hatefulness?” The short answer would be, yes. With this right, the very first of our U.S. constitution, people are legally able to say whatever they want, however they want—as long as they do not commit these: criminal offenses. Under the constitution’s 1st Amendment, citizens have the right to free speech, as long as that speech does not infringe on other’s rights—among the obvious bomb, fire, etc. unsubstantiated threats.

There are words that have been said to me in the past that I can still remember—words that haunt my existence to this day and words that reduced my self-esteem to well below negative levels. I spent nights crying myself to sleep, causing self-harm when no one was around and spent years deconstructing myself so I could reconstruct myself into a more beautiful, smart and desirable person. “Triggered” has become an interesting term in my, rather theatrical, reaction to certain words (I used triggered before it became a meme, so go easy on me.) What may be highly offensive to another, does not render a second thought in my head; on the other hand, certain words—one’s that another would recount as unremarkable—can send me spiraling down into despair. It goes without saying, I carry many emotional scars from comments made to me years ago, to this day. So would I vote to rewrite this amendment? Not a snowball’s chance in hell.

Why would someone who was viciously ridiculed, bullied and harassed not vote to change the 1st amendment? Why would I choose to let someone call me a horrible name and not have to face jail time; or a hefty fine? As much as I would love for someone to get their comeuppance for being such a cruel and vulgar individual, I know how little society would benefit and even further, how much worse society would be in the aftermath.

words

In a societal utopia no one would make hurtful, racist, bigoted, sexist or degrading comments. In this utopia, people would understand the true gravity of their words and instinctively know what is appropriate and what is not. The only issue with this utopia is that it does not exist; we do not live in a world where all people put an emphasis on feelings. With regard to society and which ever “group” someone may identify with, we are all still, unequivocally, individuals; individuals with different opinions and different levels of offensiveness/vulnerabilities. In reality, people say, write and insinuate horrible things about other people. Furthermore, ironically, what someone would find to be a compliment, another person might find offensive—this is exactly where the regulation of freedom of speech goes awry. If a speech utopia is something you desire, have a lucid dream. I can assure you, even in a limited society, with like-minded people, there will always be someone who says the wrong thing, or says something offensive with every intention not to.

utopia

Whether creatively, or not, insults are thrown around at will and we have been provided with the perfect platform to foster pure, consistent ugliness: social media. What better way for a bully to taunt their victim or a troll to make insidious comments, anonymously, than on the loosely regulated internet? For all intents and purposes, we took a society that bullied each other to one another’s faces (or in letters) and then gave these bullies the perfect platform to express their repugnance to millions, if not billions, of victims. Is social media to blame for the rampant bullying? No more than the ocean is to blame for a shitty boat.

“But if you make it illegal, people will think twice about doing it.” Even with the many laws in place, how many criminals are still at work 24/7, 7 days a week? Not to veer off topic but if it is known that the United State’s prisons are overpopulated, imagine throwing in the “word perpetrators” who refused to pay their fines? If a new law is passed and the 1st Amendment comes up for review, what will happen when a society’s speech is regulated? The inevitable would be a country that is playing with fire, fueled by fascism (not to sound too dramatic.) That is the unfortunate truth and there is no end in sight when a country begins to restrict and scrutinize their citizen’s basic rights. I am not naive enough to believe that the world would come crashing down if people were not allowed to express their opinions but I am smart enough to know that the poison goes in both chalices: to prevent the expression of a person’s true opinion, is to restrict the awareness of a good or bad person.

Like I said, I have been bullied, taunted and teased and I have the emotional scars to bare but I would not change the 1st Amendment. Why? This is because I know the importance of freedom of speech. Without diving into the many benefits of being able to freely express opinion, I would like to focus on two freedom of speech effects:

  1. Being able to identify a bully, racist, bigot, sexist, etc.
    • When we put a restriction on what a person can say we relinquish the opportunity to identify a person’s true feelings. “If we prevent people from hate speech, they will be forced to be accepting and change”—false, what do we know about energy that is highly pressurized in an object? With just the smallest catalyst to initiate, an explosion is the reaction.
      • Force a person to bottle up hatred—get ready for the inevitable explosion.
  2. The strength that comes from arming your mind with the power to feel indifference towards judgement.
    • People will say awful things and they have since the beginning of time. What is the ONLY factor you have control over in this situation?—Your reaction; not to imply that your “comeback” has to be worthy of telling your pals later—and I am definitely not suggesting any physical reaction of any sort (because that is, deserved or not, still illegal.) What I mean by your reaction is how you perceive someone’s comments. Should you evaluate the words said? Should you decipher the possible truth to the statement(s)? Or should you accept that “some people suck” ~ Tom Segura and move on with your best life? The answer is obviously the latter of the three questions. When you are able to let comments roll off your back like water on a duck, you will be able to go through life unpenetrated by offensive comments.

duck

If nothing else, know that there are many, many people out there that will stand with you in solidarity if you are bullied, harassed or targeted for any reason. Personally, I abhor racism, sexism, bigotry, bullying and the like—but as long as there are individuals, there will be individual opinions and all the negativity that comes with that. Sure, teaching others to be kind and to cease projecting their own lack of self-worth onto others would be preferable—but that does not start with involving the government in our societal affairs. When someone is sick, a good physician does not just treat the symptoms, but treats the root cause.

Even as someone who has been the victim of cruel words and carries those emotional scars to this day, I will never support the suppression of the right to free speech. I will, however, be the one of many people who will stand with someone to support and comfort them if they find themselves on the dark end of freedom of speech.

1peech

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11 thoughts on “Bullying and the 1st Amendment

  1. I’m reminded that just because something is legal doesn’t make it right. You’ve clarified the best thing we can do is to “stand with someone to support and comfort them if they find themselves on the dark end of freedom of speech.” Ideally, I would want to lovingly confront the verbal abuse which can be challenging but possible to do regardless of the response.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. JoAnna, I completely agree. Sometimes just remaining calm and composed when someone is verbally insulting you can be the biggest challenge. Unfortunately, the 1st Amendment is quite often abused but at the same time, our advantage is to offer our own opinion back—just as we see fit. I truly wish more people would care about the impact of words but, more so than not in this social media day and age, people do not recognize the gravity of their harsh words.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. lol sorry it was a rant but he does incite that .. I did read it but not sure that level of freedom is justified for those who abuse it … you’re most welcome to delete it 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh no I would never delete someone’s honest opinion, you are 100% entitled to that on my page. I get, at the very least that a lot of people are offended and completely turned off by the current POTUS. Interestingly enough I do know a good handful of people who support Trump and who also love people of all color, people of all sexual preferences, and people who fight for feminism. I am a staunch independent/libertarian party affiliate. Simply put, I like good people and I don’t like bad people lol.

        Liked by 2 people

      3. I prefer respect and kindness whilst embracing diversity … we are all human and can be rude or blunt from time to time … apologise and move on.
        But when people make it their constant practice abuse must be called what it is, another form of violence and that’s unacceptable to me :mrgreen:

        Like

  2. This is one of the best posts I’ve recently read. I so, so, so! agree. When I say things like that I am told that I probably never tasted the short end of the stick. You show it nicely that one can have various experiences and still have such an opinion.

    Like

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