Monday, March 27, 2006

Freedom of Expression

So, I have a bumper sticker on my car that says "I Support President Bush" and it has the President's face on it. Now, I know that by putting this on my car I opened myself up to all sorts of criticism from anti-Bush people, etc. I can't tell you how many comments I've gotten on it over the years since I put it on my car. A man at a gas station once asked me where I got it because he wanted one. A man at my old apartment complex wanted to debate with me on politics - he was a very strong democrat. I will admit that lately I have heard more and more negativity towards Bush and his administration and honestly I don't know what its all about because I have not kept up with the news and whats going on. So there is a chance that maybe I don't actually support some of the things going on. But in general I still believe that GW is a godly man, and as my President (and the one I voted for both times) I support him even if I may not agree with him. Does that make sense? Anyway, yesterday I was driving on 121 and as I approached a red light I happened to glance in my rear view mirror as a white SUV approached behind me. The woman in the passenger seat caught my eye as she was gesturing to the driver and pointing at my bumper. Then she shot me the the bird!! Obviously it was in reference to the sticker and I had a conflict of reactions. My first one was to laugh - I mean its a sticker for crying out loud, yet she was so upset about it she felt the need to gesture obscenely in my direction! But the second was to be offended because I have the freedom and the right to express my beliefs and display them on my private property. And of course the third was shame at my offense because while I have the freedom to put that sticker on my car, she has the right to flip me off because of her disapproval of said sticker! But you know, when I see vulgar bumper stickers, or darwin fish symbols, or democratic stickers, etc on other vehicles I do not feel the need to obscenely gesture or react negatively to that person directly. I may disagree with their opinions but at the same time I recognize their freedom to express that opinion publicly and display those things on their private property. So in the end I decided to feel slightly amused that something so simple as a bumper sticker would encite such a vulgar reaction from a complete stranger, but also glad that I do in fact live in a country where we are free to express those opinions. And this leads me to another recent experience regarding freedom of expression/speech. I went to the Stars game Wednesday night with some friends and at one point during the game, the young guys sitting a few rows behind me expressed their anger at a call or something. One of the guys yelled VERY loudly 2 cuss words which I really dislike. There are some expressions that I will "tolerate" but these were two that I strongly felt did not need to be used, especially since there were children/families around. Several people turned to glare at the guy who yelled this, but I made eye contact. So as I turned back around he said to me something along the lines of "thats why I come to the games, so I can yell at the refs" and I responded back "Okay but you don't have to use that kind of language". He then responded something about free speech. At this point I thought, okay if you're really gonna go there, then fine. So I turned back around and said "Yes, but you're in a public place and there are children around who can hear you" to which one of his buddies laughed and said "I like this chick she says what she thinks". After some hesitation the young man finally said "Okay okay I apologize (on behalf of the children)" and that was the end of it. But the mother sitting next to me thanked me. I don't think anyone else in that general area would have ever said anything to this guy and I wouldn't have had he not engaged me by his response. It was a sporting event and therefore people are going to "express their feelings" and technically they do have that right. But at the same time I feel that as adults we should excersise some discretion based on our surroundings and the fact that there were young children around who didn't need to be exposed to such words. No mater what your beliefs or convictions or lack thereof, a level of responsibility still comes with how you choose to act and when and where. He had the right to use those words, and I had the right to express my disgust. Thank you to the forefathers who wrote the constitution and gave us both those rights.

2 Comments:

At 6:01 PM , Blogger Reagan said...

i abhor bumper stickers as a general rule (too much clutter--even one). but recently i was at a hockey game where a woman kept yelling at a kid to sit down that she "pays to see the game, too". she was sooo rude to the kids (i think it was a boyscout troop or a birthday party). anyway, the adult w/ the kids was like why are you yelling?. she said the same speil about paying for her seats and besides, she would NEVER bring her kids to a place that sold beer. the chaperone said "i'm not drinking beer and they're not drinking beer." hahahas from the crowd eavesdropping. she said "yeah, but i am."

 
At 11:52 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jan-

Everyone has freedom of speech as you pointed out...however the difference is those that choose to use it constructively (as you most often do) and those that choose to use it in an rude, obscene, offensive, immature, etc. manner with totally disregard for others. Unfortunately, as time goes on, more of the latter seem to appear.

Josh

 

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