Dear Jackrabbit #34 — On Speech

Dear Jackrabbit,

Let’s see, boy. A little over eight months on this planet and you’re becoming quite a chatterbox. You’re making sounds that could reasonably be recognized as “mama” and “dada” and we’re both quite delighted.

Granted, whether or not you’ve associated meaning with these sounds hasn’t been determined and, in all likelihood, not a thing yet… at least it’s a start.

“Pater, your words are wise… as always.”

Speech can be a great power. And if Stan Lee (look him up) has taught us anything at all, it’s that with great power comes great responsibility.

Words matter.

“But Captain,” you might say to me (quite appropriately), “what do you mean?”

Well, boy, I bring this up because speech has become an important topic in this country of late–particularly hate speech. Hate speech is typically described as speech which intends to threaten, harass, diminish, or otherwise harm another person–usually based on race, gender, sexuality, religion, and so forth. Most often, it comes from folk with privilege as a mean to keep those with less privilege “in their place.”

Weird, right?

In their minds, affording other people the same dignity and respect that they receive (whether or not it’s merited) seems to make them think that their own dignity and respect will be diminished.

I know. It doesn’t make sense.

For example, someone might call homosexuals hateful terms–especially when they are trying to defend their equal rights to have their marriages recognized by the state. Somehow they think that two guys getting hitched makes any marriage they have less legitimate.

I have no idea why.

Some people will threaten black people with violence because they dare to speak out against the disproportionate amount of violence they suffer from the hands of police. Or because people object to monuments on public land honoring dead slave holders. Or because they moved into their neighborhood. Or are shopping at a certain supermarket. Or because they looked at them funny.

I wish I could say I’m making this up. And I wish I can say that when you read this that you’ll be living in a world where what I’m talking about is ancient history.

Alas… it probably won’t be the case. Yes, things are better than they used to be, but hate speech has been cropping up a lot more lately. At first it was in response to having a black President. Some people just couldn’t deal with that. Then it continued when our current President campaigned on a platform of racism, sexism, and pretty much making people fear or hate “the other.”

There has been a backlash and we’re trying to call out this nonsense when we find it and respond appropriately. Hate speech is not acceptable–particularly in civilized society–particularly in a country that likes to think of itself as exceptional.

“But your Honor,” you might say to me, “what about free speech?”

Well, free speech is a wonderful thing. It means the government can’t put me in jail for what I say–even if it’s offensive*. What I am not protected from, however, are the consequences of said speech. If I engage in hate speech, people would be well within their rights to say, not buy books I publish, or not hire me for freelance work. It would not protect me from public criticism.

Free speech works both ways.

*Note: I cannot shout “Fire!” in a crowded movie theater unless there is an actual fire. There are reasonable limits when it comes to public safety.

To keep this a bit short… words matter. It’s no great chore to consider your words before you speak or write them.

Does what you’re saying seek to diminish, dismiss, threaten, or outright offend people who expect to be treated with the same respect you expect for yourself?

Then knock that shit off.

This isn’t hard. Try to treat people with the same amount of respect that you expect for yourself.

(Except Nazis and other “alt-right” scumbags… because fuck those guys.)

Words matter. It’s a complex world, but some things should be easier than they seem.

All my love,

–Dad (aka captain, your Honor, pater, papa, dada, and sir)

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About jdteehan

John is a proud geek and nerd, a publisher, a freelancer, and a new dad. He's into books, gaming, and music. He's a good cook, a passing musician and artist, and terrible fisherman. The biggest thing in his life right now is being a new dad and he has started a blog all about that. Visit Dearjackrabbit.com for more on that. Also visit Merryblacksmith.com for word on publishing projects.
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