All Speech is Free Speech, Whether You Like it or Not

Source: https://www.pexels.com/@gratisography

This was an article I never intended to write. Now every part of me is screaming at me not to hide anymore. I’m not overly political and I don’t talk about a lot of hot-button topics on Medium. Now I’ve decided to show what I stand for. I’m a free speech absolutist. This means that no matter how controversial your opinion is, I stand by your right to say it.

The U.S. has an amendment that defends free speech. It’s part of the constitution. I live in the U.K. and there’s no amendment or law that protects free speech. Instead, we have police officers who spend more time policing social media than protecting the public. We live in a world where words are violence and saying and doing anything remotely controversial can be considered hate speech.

I believe there are only two genders. I believe that abortion is a more nuanced debate than simply ‘my body, my choice’. I believe that people from all ideological walks of life deserve to have their voices heard, no matter how repugnant their views may be. I don’t care if you’re Christian, Jew or Muslim. I don’t care about your sexuality. I don’t care if you’re a communist hippie vegan or an alt-right skinhead. I don’t care about your race, either. If this is too controversial an opinion for you, you may want to stop reading this article.

Free speech is inclusivity. Free speech is being able to say what you want without being charged for a crime. The ever-increasing divide between political groups is dangerous and there is less middle ground than there has been in recent memory. That precious middle ground is what holds the extreme left-right politics at bay. The middle ground is what allows people to talk about their views in a calm and reasonable way. Free speech is being able to say; ‘I don’t like what you have to say, and I think you’re wrong, but I defend your right to say it,’ rather than ‘Shut up you bigot, it’s not okay to be white!’

I’ve seen and experienced a lot in my life so far. Now I’m in the twilight of my twenties, I care less about fitting in. I have, and I always will be an outcast. There are a lot of millennials who don’t believe what I believe, and that’s okay. I’m sure there are plenty of people from other generations who don’t hold the same beliefs as I do. I suppose I feel so strongly about free speech is that I know what it’s like to be censored. My father was abusive, and he used subtle methods of emotional manipulation to control me and my family. Piece by piece, all my emotion and agency was ripped from me. I became an automaton. He did this whilst rarely lifting a finger. Even when I realised what he was doing was wrong, it took at least a year for me to come forward to the authorities. That’s the power of emotional abuse, and I will never let someone else guilt me into retracting my words. Nothing anyone can say can hurt me.

An open letter to the awkward – from an awkward person

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It’s okay to be awkward, it’s okay to be different. I’m awkward too.

Sometimes it’s a defence mechanism, protecting you from saying the wrong thing at the wrong time.

Sometimes you might not have a lot to say. Maybe you’re thinking hard on things.

Maybe you just want to be left alone.

While awkwardness doesn’t mean that you don’t have friends, you may find it hard to interact with them if you have them. You may feel like you’re being judged, but if they’re really your friends, they won’t mind if you show a little of your awkwardness. Try not to worry too much about it.

Maybe we’re not as good at talking, writing or expressing ourselves, but our thoughts and opinions are as valid as anyone else’s.

Our opinions might be a little out there. They might be a little unconventional. We may just blurt them out without thinking. Sometimes we can be a bit thoughtless.

We may be dreamers that don’t interact with the world that well. We may struggle with mundane tasks. The only way I can remember to do chores is if I put reminders on my phone.

We might like things a certain way, and don’t like our stuff moved. We may be protective of our belongings. We may have a lot of boundaries to protect our more vulnerable selves.

We might be quiet around new people. We’re not comfortable jumping into conversation and many of us aren’t great conversation starters, either. That doesn’t mean we don’t like new people, we just need time to make up our minds if a new person is friendship material.

Some of us may have a mental health issue that can make life a bit more difficult. Some of us may have a learning disability. Some of us have difficulties with past traumas and have specific triggers that people may have to know in advance before interacting with us.

I know I’m difficult. I know I’m awkward. My blank expression and monotone voice don’t mean that I’m incapable of feeling (even though it might seem that way). I’m human. You can still hurt me. My lack of enthusiasm in conversation is a default setting until I’m sure of how to react in an exchange. Sometimes the topic just bores me, and I have nothing to say. I try not to be an asshole. If I’ve been an asshole to you, then I’m sorry. I’ll try and be better.

I’m not speaking to every awkward person out there. I’m not an awkwardness ambassador. Your experiences may be very different from mine, and I’m writing this because all the above has happened to me and maybe you can relate.

It doesn’t matter if you describe yourself as awkward, or eccentric, or difficult. We are all human. You are no better or no worse than anyone else. We’re all in this together.