Lisa A. Kramer

Author, Speaker, Theater Artist, Creativity Facilitator

Words Matter


Freedom of Speech.

That has become the catch phrase lately for anyone to say anything they want, especially hateful, abusive, discriminatory, sexist things. It has become the fall back defense for people who think their right to say and do whatever they want trumps other people's rights to feel safe and secure from harassment and abuse.

The past few weeks have provided abundant examples of this freedom's potential to be hurtful and hateful: In one way, the people who hide behind freedom of speech are right--they are free to think, say, believe whatever they want to say. But that goes both ways. They cannot say "I can say whatever I want but if you object and say anything against me you are interfering with my rights." Although they often try to do that. They try to say "my freedom of speech is more important than your freedom, because I said so."

It doesn't work that way.

Words (and pictures) have power. In our society, what we say is often out there for the world to see, and will stay there forever. If the only voices allowed to speak loudly and freely are the ones spouting negativity and hate, and if the loudest, most powerful voices--for example a media outlet like ABC--doesn't use their voice (by apologizing loudly and clearly) to correct mistakes, then the only things heard are the ones that spout negativity, doubt, hatred, confusion, misunderstanding. The power of these kinds of words fuels hate, war, crime, violence.

[caption id="attachment_8946" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Words I often use. Words I often use.[/caption]

I realize that even the nature of my writing this post comes from the concept of free speech. But does that give me permission to spout every hateful thought that comes into my head, regardless of the consequences? I know that some of my ideals and beliefs aren't palatable to many. I am a feminist, pro-choice, non-practicing Jewish, liberal woman who believes that race is a cultural construct, there should be restrictions on gun ownership, and women should have full autonomy when it comes to their bodies.  I believe that education should be creative and available to everyone regardless of gender, race, sexuality and that testing should be limited. I believe that the wealthiest among us should help the poorest among us, and that wealth does not equal superiority. I believe that people should be able to marry whomever they love, and that the Bible was written by men who wanted to control property and women (who were considered property). I believe that rape culture does exist, and that climate change is scientifically proven. I believe in evolution.

I also believe that people have a right to their opinion. They have a right to voice that opinion, even if it contradicts mine. However, I have the right to say "No!" I have the right to control my blog and not allow hate speech on there. I have the right to speak out against those voices screaming words of hate.

Not only do I have the right, but I also have the responsibility. I think that is the element that people are forgetting--with freedom comes responsibility. We are responsible for thinking before we speak, for protecting those who need protection rather than promoting harm, for taking care of the world, not just the small group of people who think/act/talk like us.

If we can't handle that freedom responsibly, do we deserve to have it?

[caption id="attachment_8947" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Important words from this post. Important words from this post.[/caption]



In the world of P.O.W.ER, the power of words is limited to men and the freedom of speech is limited to those who wield the most power--discover how a group of people working together can change everything. Buy your copy today.