Thursday, September 9, 2010

A good response to hateful speech

Carbon has been asking me recently why we don't just stop people from saying hateful things. Our loose and free-flowing explorations of literature, history, and language together have led to some tricky explanations of exactly why something would be hateful or hurtful to different groups of people. Racism, sexism, and homophobia are concepts he is slowly beginning to encounter and understand.
So why don't we just make it against the law to say hateful things, Mom?
Well, there is that tricky little thing called Freedom of Speech, which I happen to believe in quite passionately. Voltaire said "I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it". (OK, there is some dispute about whether he is really the guy who said this. Whatever, I like to attribute it to Voltaire - he said a lot of great things anyway).
Unfortunately, with actions like the planned "Burn a Koran Day", some of our troops may end up dying to defend our right to say hateful things. The whole idea of the planned 9/11 event turns my stomach, but I truly love this response, from the organization Military Religious Freedom. You can read about it here in Mother Jones Magazine.


  1. Yeah, its hard to explain to kids. My kids also think that I should just stop people from saying what they say (they also think LOL, that I should tell people who smoke that it is bad for them, that I should tell kids our family "rules" for the playground, etc...interesting to see how their minds think). For me as an adult, I think its really important to look at "...isms" from a systemic point of view, so that I understand the way they manifest with or without words. Not sure how that might translate in terms of kids.

  2. Oh yes - systematic "isms" and institutional privilege and all that - totally over the head of a 7 year old. :) He's still at the "people are nice" or "people are mean" and "it's not fair" mindset.

  3. Interesting article--thanks for the link!