The Physics of Freedom


Action and Reaction. Thus works the universe.

Action and Reaction. Thus works the universe.

[I apologize for my absence. Life demands attention in all matters and I’ve had some important issues to deal with which has taken me away from my writing. But now you can sit back and enjoy my triumphant return! Yay!]

 

Some of you may have read my post on the stupid memes that continue to proliferate around the internet. I’ve found another one that inspired me to sit down and bang out yet another rant. Check out this doozy:

Poor Phil. Is he suffering from Rodney Dangerfield syndrome?

Poor Phil. Is he suffering from Rodney Dangerfield syndrome?

Now, I’m pretty sure Phil didn’t whip up this beauty of a meme all by himself. In fact, he probably had nothing to do with its creation although I’m pretty sure he’d agree with it. Nonetheless I’ll address this topic as though I were speaking to the creator of the meme and not Phil directly.

The history of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America is long and rooted in a number of other famous documents and events. I won’t go into detail about all of that but suffice it to say, one of the principles that our founding fathers wanted to include in the foundation of our new nation was the right of the common man to be able to speak out against the prevailing government without fear of official reprisal. In the years that have followed since the ratification of the Constitution, the scope of the First Amendment has broadened to include quite a variety of personal expressions including things like burning the American flag.

The concept of “freedom of speech” has become so ingrained in the modern American psyche that it’s true meaning is sometimes lost. Freedom does not come without a price. Newton’s third law of motion tells us that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. In some ways, this can be applied to our “freedom” of speech. Simply put, one is free to say or do anything one desires. Truly anything. I can say whatever I wish about anyone I wish. I can steal, cheat, lie or even murder someone if I want. I am “free” to do anything I choose. What I am not free from, are the consequences of my actions. All words and all actions have consequences. While the consequences are not always “equal and opposite” as in physics, they can sometimes be severe.

Phil Robertson is known for making a number of controversial statements. Partly because he’s a celebrity (and simply the fact that he and others like the Kardashians are celebrities is probably another topic of conversation) and partly because his statements were of a violent and graphic nature concerning religion, the incidents made national news. Due to the widespread exposure of his comments, dissent about his opinion was also widespread. There was considerable backlash in particular to the analogy he made about a family being brutalized by atheist terrorists. I have no way to know how Phil reacted in private to the backlash, but I suspect he was, at the very least, surprised. In his mind, I’m sure he probably felt he’d said nothing wrong and was only trying to defend his strong Christian faith.

The intent behind the meme I posted above is clear. Someone felt that the attacks on Phil for his comments were unfounded, unfair or just plain wrong. That’s fine. If you agree with Phil you are free to do so. It’s natural for anyone to try to defend their ideas and opinions or the ideas and opinions of other like-minded persons. This meme was an attempt to exculpate Phil from the vast criticism he received publicly. Regrettably, the creator of the meme fails to understand that the backlash is a natural component of this “freedom of speech” we enjoy in my country. Phil was free to speak his mind in the way that Phil is prone to do and thus must then accept whatever resulting actions occur in the aftermath. One cannot reasonably expect to make violent and highly controversial statements without reprisal.

I hold the First Amendment above all others in the Bill of Rights and contend that it is the single most important law and principle in the bedrock of my country. I have written previously that defending the First Amendment is not always easy. When others use its protection to express ideas I find deplorable, or use methods I find extreme, the challenge to defend their right to do so is daunting. Regardless, I stand by Phil and others like him in my belief that he is free to use his celebrity pulpit to pontificate all he wishes. I will not, nor should anyone (I’m talking to you, Mr. meme-maker and all those who “shared” it on social media) try to protect him from whatever repercussions ensue.

Yes Phil, this is America and yes, you can speak your mind. And if you say something I don’t like, I will use my First Amendment protection to speak my mind and let you know what I think. That’s how it works. The benefits and consequences of the law applies to us all. Aequalitate pro omnibus.

 

 

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