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do we really have to cover this again?

i wish they still fed people like you to the lions
i have a pair of boots that came in a box that read "made from genuine black kid leather". it kinda threw me when i first saw it, because i didn't even think that was legal, much less something you'd want to advertise, but gradually it dawned on me that the manufacturer meant to highlight the use of soft, supple goat leather. i still tossed the box, because no one needs to find any more evidence of cannibalism and murder in my house. [ok, it's not cannibalism if you're making them into clothing, but they don't have a term for that yet.]

the point of me sharing that is to illustrate that there are moments where meaning can become confused and you end up thinking that someone said something really horrible when they actually meant something totally innocuous. like the time i told dom not to get his knickers in a knot and he thought i'd said something pretty offensive [and nonsensical if you think about it, which you probably shouldn't]. such things happen. we move on.

but there are times when there's just no question that you said something pretty vile and it was exactly what you meant to say. like the case of the woman who got herself fired by my new employer of the week cold stone creamery for dropping an n-bomb in reference to the president and expressing her american dream that he'd get murdered.

she insists she's not a racist, which leads me to believe there is some alternate dictionary floating around that defines racism somewhat differently than i would. spitting vitriol at people on the basis of their race is absolutely racist. all that her claim of not being a racist shows is that she's pretty stupid as well. [for those who couldn't have figured that out from the original facebook comment.] indeed, she seems flummoxed that her comments raised such a furor, because, after all, she was just expressing an opinion.

along the same lines, jezebel magazine ran a piece calling attention to similarly-worded tweets from teenagers about the commander-in-chief. and in return, they were inundated with messages with people whom they refer to, quite accurately, as "rage-aholics". people who are just furious about everything, but mostly furious that their countrymen had the temerity to elect a black guy. twice.

the common thread here is that all of these people fall back on the defence that they are "just voicing an opinion" and that this is an example of their right to free speech. many of the "rage-aholics" demand that jezebel's staff read the first amendment, but personally, i'd advise that these angry folk do the same and that they make an effort to calm down and understand what is meant by "free speech".

lesson one :: free speech does not mean you can say whatever the hell you want. if i encourage someone to kill a guy i don't like very much- even if i don't ask them to do it per se, i still have a legal responsibility if my confidante ends up attacking my enemy with a machete. there endeth kate's right to free speech. so, yes, your right may be enshrined in the constitution, but there are still limitations on it. that said, the threats against obama's life are vague enough that none of the people are likely to be arrested. so let's move on to...

lesson two :: no one ever said that you have the right to say whatever you want without consequences. the right to free speech means that your government can't pass laws that impede your speech. but you can absolutely be held responsible for it, which includes the rights of journalists to call attention to what you said and insist that you defend it, no matter who you are. so, yes, you can take to twitter or facebook or your street corner and start screaming that black people can't lead because they're all serial killers, but likewise, people who hear you or read your thoughts have every right to ask you to defend what you've said. that's their right of free speech.

this isn't the first time i've ranted about this, because as a defender of the rights of people everywhere to express themselves in almost whatever way they see fit [i do think it's reasonable to impose limitations when it comes to committing or aggressively inciting violence], i get frustrated that so much of that defence seems to involve defending the right of people to say really ignorant, anti-intellectual, uneducated, flagitious things. people in the world are still dying for the right to speak their political views and it is insulting to them to equate their struggles with spoiled brats screeching racial epithets for the world.

you have the right to free speech, kids. you also have the right to remain silent. it's important to work out which one is appropriate to the situation.

[the photo used was widely circulated, but there's a fantastic deconstruction of it right here, which is where i found it after googling "stupid racists".]

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