"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me" was a defensive taunt kids used when I was growing up to ward off hateful words. While I never gave much thought to its relative power back then, the effect was like warding off vampires with garlic. Somehow in the innocence of our youth, we had discovered a catchy phrase that really did work. It produced no knuckle busters thrown in anger, no rough tackles to the ground, no trips to the principles office. And no damaged egos. It was the proverbial "magic bullet".
And then we grew up into an adult world, where all of the sudden, words could land a person in court. Words could cause a man to kill another. Words could be used as a crutch. Words could be used as hate speech. Words could be used to inflame racist sentiments. Harmless words could be censored.
What was once easily defused in youth had become nearly impossible to extinguish as adults.
We treat offensive words, either written or spoken, as a cup of acid, thrown into the eyes of an intended victim. Even non-offensive words are often targeted for simply stating an opposing view. Some people want to criminalize hate speech. To those that do, would that be an indication of advanced intellect, or genetic regression of mere primitive impulses?
As a general rule, offensive words and opposing views are written, or spoken, by all people; Rich, poor, educated, uneducated, every race, color, creed, sexual orientation, and by everyone. They are like lies... everybody uses them. It is part of what makes us human.
Why then, as a society, have we become so obsessed by human behavior to the point of censorship? In reading a few cases online, they all share a common denominator; Intolerance.
"The student, Christopher Bowler, filed suit after school administrators forced him to take down posters advertising the school's Conservative Club."
"The battle over a gay-rights T-shirt stretched beyond the southwest Missouri town where it started and reached federal court on Tuesday."
On October 7, 2000, the Star Tribune reported that "the sign has gotten bigger and the word 'God' has shrunk, but Shawnee County Treasurer Rita Cline still faces a lawsuit over a sign at her office proclaiming, 'In God We Trust.'
And my personal favorite: A student who said she was told she wouldn't get her diploma unless she apologized for a commencement speech in which she mentioned Jesus has filed a lawsuit alleging her free speech rights were violated.
There are many other examples, but these few are meant to show one thing: No one is blameless. We all go after one another seeking to litigate away our fundamental rights, as if legislation will somehow "improve" Freedom of Speech. We must be either stupid, crazy, infected, insane, idiots, nut jobs, whacked, blind, liberals, conservatives, moderates, far-leaning, or all of the above, to behave like this. We are becoming a society of wimps, walking on eggshells, afraid to say "boo!"
If we allow ourselves to proceed down this path of legislating speech, we are doomed as a free people. In a free society, everyone has a right to be offensive, or non-offensive. That also includes the right to be offended, or not. We call that "Tolerance" by another name... and the kids of our youth practiced it well.