Who’s Fair and Balanced Now?

Juan Williams, from http://www.hertogprogram.org/faculty/detail/juan-williams
Juan Williams, from http://www.hertogprogram.org/faculty/detail/juan-williams

GASP!! Ohhhh! Did a media figure actually practice their constitutionally protected right to freedom of speech? Did they step outside of their scripted, sterile, cardboard environment and show some personality?

I am simply disgusted that National Public Radio fired Juan Williams. He expressed an honest opinion on the Fox News channel that surely didn’t sit right with some, and many might have found offensive, understandably. But I also understand why he expressed the concern that he did.

This just seems to be one more freak-out overreaction to a public figure’s blatant honesty. Evidently our country’s press has gotten so painfully politically correct that they spontaneously divorced themselves from a knowledgeable, respected broadcaster who’s best known for his stance on civil rights.

Civil rights!

Someone needs to remind NPR that they receive taxpayer dollars and that Americans have a wide range of personal views. This decision came so fast that it seems very narrow-minded, although I had the odd and unfounded thought that maybe someone was lying in wait for this opportunity.

This just reinforces the modern notion that people who disagree with a system or establishment should be branded as bigots, traitors, extremists, freaks, haters, and conspiracy theorists. It feels like the “cool kids” in high school are bullying the freshman who dares wear a different brand of jeans.

What, are certain groups exempt from calls for fairness, respect, and equality? When did the First Amendment begin to apply to only one ideology? Also, are human beings not allowed to make mistakes anymore?

Honestly, it irks me that people who claim to be all-inclusive, pro-free speech, and pro-freedom of the press writhe like salted slugs when someone disagrees with them. Is it only freedom of speech if they do it and if they approve of it?

So if the Council for American-Islamic Relations and other groups are going to laud Williams’ firing and declare that such speech not be tolerated, then would it be fair to expect them to speak out the next time a Presbyterian, Tea Party supporter, or American soldier is lampooned in the press for some minor “offense” that, under our Constitution, they are allowed to commit?

I’d rather have Helen Thomas, Rick Sanchez, Jon Stewart, Michael Savage, the walker-outers on The View (which I found offensive), Juan Williams, and any other public figure whose words or actions have ticked others off speaking their minds any day of the week than continue to roll our country towards a straitjacket-like uniformity of thought and speech.

So Juan, I don’t always agree with you. But I admire you. And I am tired of seeing people paid to supposedly speak their minds getting punished for speaking their minds whether I agree with them or not. I’d much rather have openness, frankness, and honesty flood the airwaves than allow some uber- pharisaical, rigid, drama queen, police state mentality to dominate the media.

America is a nation of diversity. We are never all going to please each other or agree with each other, and I find it quite beautiful that we have the freedom to disagree. I would get bored if my friends were not all so different. I learn things from people who are different.

And as a wise man once said, if we’re all thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking!

Our country seems to be getting weirder and weirder. Everybody can sue everybody else for anything, and certain segments of society seem to believe they are automatically entitled to restitution when someone offends them. Sometimes it’s wise to apologize, and sometimes it’s necessary to make amends. But not always.

A couple days ago a friend of mine was making coffee when the coffee pot cracked. I asked her if she was burned. She said no. I was glad she was okay, but at the same time, I pointed out that she missed an opportunity to sue herself for three million dollars.

Yep. That’s about where things are at. Sometimes it seems like some people just want to be a victim (a sarcastic remark, rife with overgeneralization and acerbic wit; the clarification is provided for those who will be combing through my blog for attack ad ammo someday when I run for office).

Liberal, conservative, atheist, Christian– it doesn’t matter– this is the United States and the only way we are ever going to solve our problems and be able to work together is to speak our minds. We have to run the risk of infuriating others to allow for honest dialogue and problem-solving.

Otherwise we become repressed little robots, baring our teeth in superficial smiles at the “others”, as if someone on the other end of the political spectrum is so radically different from us that they brush their teeth with a Dremel, eat magic mushrooms for breakfast, and bathe thrice daily in a tub of coagulated chupacabra milk.

Whatever. Doesn’t it get that absurd, though? Are Americans really so horrifically different that we can’t work together to solve our problems? Our two party-dominated system has polarized this nation to the extent that we have trouble collaborating with people different than ourselves anymore. Our enemy is not the man who disagrees with us; our enemy is the man who threatens our freedom.

Believe me, I have strong opinions on politics and religion, but my polar opposite three blocks away has just as much right to trumpet his beliefs on his blog as I do. And unless he threatens someone, I’m probably not going to call him on his freedom to do that. I might well call him on the content of his message, but he has a right to create that message.

Also, I’d much rather lock horns with him in an all-out political brawl than for either of us to be silenced by the 21st century Word Police who keep staring at us outspoken types hissing, “hush… hush… you’ve offended someone, you brash and insensitive Neanderthal bigots.” Speaking your mind on a controversial subject does not make you a bigot. Shutting down other people’s right to speak does.

I understand that NPR has the freedom to speak out about Juan Williams and even fire him. But they certainly aren’t sending a message of tolerance and equality by doing so. What I’m seeing instead is intolerance and sanctions for deviation from the status quo.

Maybe I’m just crabby because it’s been a really long day and I’m about at the Scotch-taping my eyelids open to stay awake point. But the bottom line is– hey Word Police– back off my First Amendment. As in, leggo our freedom, yo, and quit holding the button down on the toaster to try and fry everybody’s word waffles but your own.

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Freedom rings where opinions clash. -Adlai E. Stevenson

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Note: The day after I posted this, articles began appearing in the news about how Juan Williams felt that his bosses were looking for a chance to fire him. So my suspicion has been confirmed, at least from Williams’ point of view.

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©2010 H. Hiatt/wildninja.wordpress.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninja.wordpress.com.

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