A dear friend (former camper) sent me a book that he believes makes the case that “free speech” is fighting for its life in our country. It’s written by a conservative professor and is about the professor’s frustration relative to his desire to express his opinion on a variety of issues. And, of course, he makes the case that freedom of speech is being taken from him and others like him. The professor also argues that he is denied the right to express “truths” by the institution he teaches at. He goes further writing that universities throughout the country are responsible for shutting down “free speech” in the class room.
I have no fault with his passion for free speech and how he argues for it. Frankly, I am in agreement with him when it comes to being able to express one’s opinion. After-all, what is “genuine dialogue?” It is the highest level of conversation that people can have. It is where mutual respect lives, people are seriously present, listen to what is said, work to understand what is said, and are totally honest in their response. Agreement either happens or it does not and this is acceptable. Also, are facts necessary in most conversations, or is it opinions that rule?
What this professor misses in his argument is that when powerful people speak their words are too often taken as fact. Unless facts are backed up by absolute provable data, not the power and influence of the speaker, how do we know what is said is true? A problem for many is this: that certain people possess the power or credentials and followers, for some reason, believe every word they utter. How can anyone accept words as fact unless the words are backed up by hard proof? “Stupid is as stupid does.”
Opinion is what most people have and this is commonly based on what one hears– reads and personal experience. If facts are called for we need to ask the question: “what are the facts that support what you say?” I know it’s raining outside because I can see it, feel it and possibly even smell it. That’s fact! But if someone tells me “I heard it’s raining outside?” Maybe yes and maybe no? Knowing the difference between what is fact and what is opinion is essential to almost everything we say to each other. The question: Is one’s Free Speech based on facts or is it opinion? Fact is irrefutable, opinion is always arguable. Sy