On the failure of free speech in America: A 2017 Prayer

Haters use the freedom of speech guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to justify and perpetuate themselves.

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Vintage B&W image of 1965 Civil Rights marchers as ghey being to cross the Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. (Screen capture from YouTube video)

WASHINGTON, December 25, 2016 — Freedom of speech is a right protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution. But it is being used today like never before to justify hate.

We cannot prosecute haters of Muslims, blacks, Jews, gays, or the LGBT community. We simply can’t, despite their brainwashing and despite the actions of those who listen and go out and do violence. These haters proliferate today more than at any time in our history. We thus have to create a movement that eliminates hateful beliefs and substitutes acceptance of others as the norm. Our next President has an opportunity, because he has addressed many who hate and he has their attention.

Free speech is a sacred right, so much so that it is in the FIRST Amendment. It allows us to express any opinion without censorship or restraint. This right is perhaps the bedrock of our country’s vitality, strength and it is the envy of many worldwide. People are put to death in some countries because of what they say.

This right should not be challenged nor changed. As outrageous as some manifestations of free speech are, such as the planned 1977 Nazi march and display of the swastika in the predominantly Jewish community of Skokie, Illinois, the right to the freedom of speech is a good and important one that Americans can and should embrace. Yet, America needs a moral change.


If a shift in what America wants has now been evidenced by the election of a political outsider to the office of President, perhaps he and Americans of sound morality can also shift the mindset of those Americans who harbor hate.

Hate is being seen more and more, both “above” and “below the radar.” It is spreading in Internet groups and in chat rooms, and we see constant demonstrations and news of anti-Muslim, anti-LGBT, anti-black, and other hate rhetoric almost every day.

The law protects racists, haters and ignorant others. Their fallback position of defending their “legal right” to speak hatred does little to justify the vitriol they routinely spew. Their hatred, in turn, is brainwashing children, teens and even young adults, and it is a primary driver in creating today’s senseless violence.

We see now racism more than ever. We argue about serving cake to gays or lesbians getting married. Discrimination, harassment and violence are being practiced, condoned and taught by haters.

The law can do little to squash belief, nor should it. Yet the hating and discriminatory culture we now live in has escalated, in part because of President-elect Trump’s statements and actions, but also because of the increase of violent incidents around the country on almost a daily basis. Communities such as African Americans and the LGBT community are criticized, made to feel second-class, discriminated against, and far too often, assaulted or killed because of what they believe or who they are.

Legality is fine. Morality is a higher consideration. The law says all people are to be considered “equal.” It is a shame that there needs to be a law. All people are equal.

Hate is not a new issue. Differences among people have always been the basis for discrimination and violence. The United States has its own embarrassing history of such behavior, particularly when one looks back at how blacks were and are still treated, and how Japanese Americans were treated around World War II.

Our world should be one of acceptance. This moral truth is not debatable. In December 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a Declaration inspired by the discrimination and atrocities that took place during World War II. Article 7 of the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” states “All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law.”

We are not better than our neighbor who is of a different race, gender, national origin, sexual orientation, color, ethnicity, religion, disability or other characteristic.

Despite laws that espouse equality and efforts by police and government (which efforts are often horrible and discriminatory themselves), every day “on the street” conduct of acceptance has not yet been seen, and hatred is worse now than in even recent years past in our country.

One shining voice: Tim Kaine, former Virginia Governor, United States Senator and former candidate for Vice-President, in an October 11, 2016 interview:

“We’ve lived in a country that has had its north star as the equality principle since 1776, and part of what we do as a nation is we journey to become more and more equal as we go, as we learn and grow. That’s our journey.

“The equality principle actually protects religious folks, because you can’t be penalized for not worshipping, you can’t be penalized for being in a minority religion. We are a society where you can’t be preferred or punished by how you worship or choose not to worship. There’s no conflict — there’s none — between our equality principle and the notion of religious freedom.”

Haters use the freedom of speech principle to justify and perpetuate themselves. They gather together and spread their beliefs, creating a society that is moving away from the equality principles Sen. Kaine so eloquently spoke about. Hate groups flourish, with membership increasing, and with more groups popping up.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, (SPLC) a non-profit legal center specializing in civil rights, releases an annual list of hate groups operating across the country. Organizations that have “beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people” make the list. At the end of 2015 there were 892 hate groups identified by the SPLC in the U.S., an increase from 784 in 2014. You can view SPLC’s hate group location map, on its website, but hold your breath if you access the link.

Ku Klux Klan numbers are growing. Black separatist hate groups grew from 113 chapters in 2014 to 180 in 2015. The “numbers” are an understatement. What has been called the American radical right has spawned a following that operates mainly online, where the danger of public exposure and embarrassment is considerably less and where younger people tend to gather. No effort, test or pledge of allegiance is required to join in the conversations. SPLC says that the major hate forum “Stormfront” reportedly has over 300,000 members and has been adding about 25,000 registered users annually for several years—a number that could populate a small city.

Would you like to live in a city where everyone hated blacks, or gays, or Jews, or Muslims?

Convicted Charleston, South Carolina church mass murderer Dylann Roof is a perfect example of the brainwashing that occurs in radical-right white supremacist circles. What kind of a world do we live in that someone would go into a church and kill people? A church! Roof was a white supremicist devotee who drank the hate-filled Kool-Aid offered on the Internet and thus absorbed the propaganda about black-on-white crime from the website of the Council of Conservative Citizens.

What kind of world do we want to live in? One that has hate as its underpinnings or one of inclusion, love and acceptance? What do we want to teach our children?

Remember the television ads being run against Mr. Trump in which children were seen watching his pronouncements? Those hit everyone hard, even his supporters, because at heart we all agree that hate is wrong.

Mark Reagan, writing for News, ETC on January 13, 2016, reports:

“Just like nearly 20 million other Americans, Habiba Noor and her family watched the December 15 Republican debate…

“Noor, a Muslim, was well aware that Donald Trump, who has suggested a temporary ban on allowing Muslims to enter the United States, would likely defend his xenophobic stance during the circus.

“She let her 9-year-old daughter and twin 5-year-old boys stay up to watch it anyway. For her daughter, at least, it was time to understand who Trump was and what he represents.

“Noor, a teacher, knows a thing or two about talking to children about Islamophobia.

“Speaking about her teenaged niece and nephew, who live in Connecticut, Noor says they are often in positions where they have to defend Islam or stand up against Islamophobic statements made by friends, teachers or whomever.”

The prayer for 2017: Mr. Trump may bring back prosperity, jobs, and “make America great again.” Americans voted for him to change things. Maybe he can. In the realm of eliminating hatred, the prayer is that Mr. Trump’s past rhetoric remains rhetoric and in the past, and that his actions will be inclusive so Americans too can change.

It is time to abandon hate, to embrace everyone for their differences, and to thrive as individuals and as a nation. Embracing the collective experiences and viewpoints of those who are different will assure we all move forward and such will make us, and our country great.

 

Paul A. Samakow is an attorney licensed in Maryland and Virginia, and has been practicing since 1980.  He represents injury victims and routinely battles insurance companies and big businesses that will not accept full responsibility for the harms and losses they cause. He can be reached at any time by calling 1-866-SAMAKOW (1-866-726-2569), via email, or through his website

His book “The 8 Critical Things Your Auto Accident Attorney Won’t Tell You” can be instantly downloaded, for free, on his website: http://www.samakowlaw.com/book.

Samakow has now also started a small business consulting firm. His new book “Step By Step, Achieve Small Business Success” is available at www.thebusinessanswer.com.

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Attorney Paul Samakow brings his legal expertise and analysis from the trenches of the courtroom to Communities Digital News. A native Washingtonian, Samakow has been a Plaintiff’s trial lawyer since 1980 practicing in the DC metro area. Paul can be reached at any time by calling 1-866-SAMAKOW (1-866-726-2569), via email @ [email protected], or through his website @ http://www.samakowlaw.com/. He is also available to speak to your group on numerous legal topics.