Banning Speech Empowers Hate, Colltalers
Terrorism, which in America is led now by a re-enabled white supremacy movement, seems to propose a challenge to the constitutional idea of free speech. But despite its complexities, it shouldn’t. The distinction between crime and freedom of expression is already in our DNA.
It’s actually been all by settled even before the Constitution, in what’s known as the Boston Massacre trials, by no other but a founding father, John Adams. Just as he defended in court a group British soldiers, the ACLU is fulfilling its role, by defending everyone’s right to congregate.
The issue has become a contentious one again, since the treasured, and nearly centenarian, civil liberties institution represented the organizer of the Nazi rally in Charlotesville. The violent gathering caused widespread injuries, and the death by car of rights activist Heather Heyer.
The ACLU, however, is not above criticism. It’s announced changes in the way it chooses to defend people and causes. But the obvious overriding issue is not which groups should be allowed to expose their vitriol. It’s whether they plan to break the law, which those ralliers did. Worst yet is that the police did nothing to prevent the violence. And that bringing loaded guns to a public gathering is not considered a crime.
There shouldn’t be much doubt about the distinction, then. Freedom of expression is a constitutional issue, not an ideological one, whereas crime is a crime, obviously, as law enforcement is accountable for omission. But the open and carry law, well, that’s just a horrendous law.
Guns, of course, were not central to what happened in Virginia – and in Barcelona, for that matter -, even as it seems an issue insulated from any challenges as the president himself. The right of anyone to express their opinion against the status quo is, and it should be, defended.
Six years before the Declaration of Independence, it was probably very easy to lose sight of what Americans want for a nation, and many had actually taken up arms to create one of their own. That ideal could, in theory, justify any act of injustice, committed in its name, right?
Not to John Adams, though, arguably the most important member of that extraordinary generation of leaders. For unlike most, he didn’t die a wealthy man, paid all his debts, did not owe slaves, and despite following a religion, was adamantly in favor of its separation from state.
In March 5, 1770, a British Captain, six of his soldiers, and four civilians, fired from Boston’s Custom House, into a crowd of some 400 protesters, killing six residents. They were to be trialled, and many expected, hanged, for the act. But Adams Continue reading