We in the United States are blessed with the ability to say and do just about anything we want. Whether it is outrageous claims regarding political views, bad haircuts, or simply opinions regarding sports teams, anything and everything is pretty much grist for the mill. What happens though when someone says something that a large portion of the country disagrees with? Where is the line that says, “I am sorry, you have the right to say that but frankly we would rather you not. Now go away.”
Social ostracization has long been the tool of a “benevolent” society to effect change. In countries and times when you could be killed, banished, or imprisoned for saying the wrong thing, becoming an outcast seems to pale in comparison. In many ways, this push to the fringe often emboldens those who have their time in the spotlight and they become icons for those who flock to that particular ideal or dogma.
The question remains though, when should society use this tool to let its displeasure be known? In the past century, we have seen people be vocal about social change through the Civil Rights Movement, the Sexual Revolution, and even more recently with the topic of Marriage Equity. Equally so were the Jim Crow era proponents of a split society as well as the Red Scare and the Evangelical Exodus of the mid-1980s.
More recently, actors and politicians have come out against the dangers of homosexuality and marriage equity. They have quoted the Bible, social engineering, and scientific inquiry. Why then, is their voice being squashed? There are those who would say that in doing this, we endanger all such speech and create a world where liberties are curtailed in favor of political correctness or social inclusion.
Free speech however does not entitle us to perform acts of speech that harm others (John Mills). This is the crux of the situation. Spreading hate, while sometimes protected by action in the United States and against acts of the government is not absolute. My friends and I have the ability to stand up and walk out, to decry the hatred, and to refuse congress with the speaker. This social action is highly dependent on the scope of the speech. I will certainly not get as much support in the social ostracization of someone who has decided that moustaches signify inferior mental skills. However, as we evolve and become more tolerant, saying that a homosexual is mentally ill or evil simply because they love their own gender will get a considerable amount of support.
Hatred is taught.