Obama’s job is to defend free speech“Dear Muslims, Christians, Hindus and Jews,” writes William Saletan of Slate.com. “You’re living in the age of the Internet. Your religion will be mocked, and the mockery will find its way to you. Get over it.” OK, so that’s way too blunt to be useful in any situation requiring diplomacy, such as foreign relations.
By: Grand Forks Herald, The Jamestown Sun
“Dear Muslims, Christians, Hindus and Jews,” writes William Saletan of Slate.com.
“You’re living in the age of the Internet. Your religion will be mocked, and the mockery will find its way to you. Get over it.”
OK, so that’s way too blunt to be useful in any situation requiring diplomacy, such as foreign relations.
Even so, here’s hoping President Barack Obama offers a much stronger defense of the First Amendment than he or his administration have done to date.
The U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of free speech is one of the landmark achievements of human civilization. It’s one of the rights that put a lump in people’s throats when they sing “The Star Spangled Banner.” It’s one of the reasons why people along a parade route stand up when the flag comes by.
It’s a bedrock freedom for which the Statue of Liberty lifts her lamp beside the golden door.
And it should be honored as such — not downplayed, not soft-pedaled and not apologized for.
But while the administration certainly hasn’t apologized for American’s freedom of speech, it also hasn’t offered anything like a robust defense. Instead, officials have communicated a kind of worldly sadness: a sense that we Americans know how hurtful some words and images can be, so much so that we might seriously consider censoring them, if only we could. But we can’t.
That’s not the right spirit to convey — even in the face of murderous riots in other countries, riots that were sparked in part by an anti-Islamic film.
Maybe especially in the face of riots that were sparked in part by a film.
Instead, the spirit to convey is this:
In America, people are free.
They are free to criticize their government, free to criticize their elected officials and free to criticize religion, all without fear of arrest.
In addition, there are complementary freedoms, including the freedom to worship and to follow the faith of their choice.
These freedoms are not just central to our history. They are responsible for our history, and for the strength and prosperity our nation enjoys today.
We will take pains to conduct our foreign policy in ways that reflect ancient lessons of diplomacy, subtlety and human relations.
But we will not stop our people from speaking out, even when they say insulting things. That freedom is a reason why America remains a magnet for oppressed people from around the world. We will explain it, justify it, defend it — but not apologize for it. Not even close.
“President Barack Obama delivers his annual address to the United Nations on Sept. 25,” CNN Opinion contributor David Frum writes.
“Let him take time in that speech to refute and repudiate blasphemy laws. Let him say that he upholds and vindicates free speech as an American right and that he respects and endorses free speech as a universal human right.
“Let him say that Americans will be protected in their speech rights against threats of violence from anyone, anywhere. Let him say that if freedom of speech means anything, it means first and foremost the right to criticize orthodoxy, political or religious. …
“Not everyone shares the American regard for free speech. That’s their lookout. But the leaders of the United States will not be bullied into compromising their most cherished values — and their most solemn constitutional obligations — by inciters of mobs, by would-be dictators and by overweening street preachers. Let him say that, too.”