Drowning the Voices of the Extremes

September 28, 2012

As our distinguished leader, President Barack Obama took to the lectern to speak about challenges facing the world at the U.N. General Assembly’s 67th session in New York, the rabble-rouser Pamela Gellar took to the NYC subway system to display her hate. The events of the past few weeks have proven to be one of the most enlightening times highlighting two harsh extremes: words vs. action.
In his speech to the U.N., Obama addressed how our First Amendment right to free speech is a cherished treasure within our democratic system. He mentioned that the amateur video, “Innocence of Muslims,” was “crude and disgusting,” yet, the reactions to the video were disproportionate to the hateful message of the film.
Obama was not the only head of state to speak out against the film; other leaders expressed their repugnance toward the video and called upon the international community to condemn the abuse of free speech.
As Americans, we hold our freedoms dear; however, the irresponsibility and immorality of people who use the power of speech to espouse hatred should be rejected by our collective conscience.  We also must condemn the extreme violent reactions of those who were offended by the insidious clip. Ironically, these two extremes need each other to stay relevant. While ads placed in the subway system by a hate group aim to divide our nation, they have actually brought people together who were reminded that the values of free speech come with responsibility.
Speech is a powerful tool, and the only way to combat hate speech is through better speech. Truly, those who seek to divide our nation and our international community do so through the expectation that their speech will not be confronted with better speech.
There will always be people whose only purpose is to shock and wait for reaction; there will always be people ready to react in a ridiculous way. Navigating our ways through the two extremes of words vs. action is tricky. Maintaining respect for free speech comes with the responsibility of knowing how to present one’s views. We cannot express our love of free speech and then turn around and expect it to be controlled when we are offended. While the two extremes are an obnoxiously pernicious reality, their existence is protected by a treasure.

[Contact: Hoda Elshishtawy, Legislative and Policy Analyst, (202) 547-7701,hoda@mpac.org

Help us continue our work with a quick
one-time or monthly donation.