You Have the Right to Remain Silent

I’m a big believer in free speech. It may not seem as free as it used to in the United States but in fact nothing has changed. The First Amendment guarantees free speech, it always has and always will. But that’s about the government. The government isn’t supposed to infringe on your right to say whatever you want.

But your employer, your friends and your family are a completely different story. While no one can stop you from thinking whatever you want they can certainly penalize you for saying it. Friends for example “penalize” you by not being a friend anymore.

Companies terminate people all the time for saying things that are not in line with company policy or culture.

Get over it, it’s always been that way it just seems to get more exposure than it used to.

But here’s the thing, just because you think you have the right to say something doesn’t mean you should say it.

There’s a well known guy who lives in a big White House, government subsidized at that, and he has one of the toughest jobs in the world. Maybe the toughest. Yet he insists on making it even harder than it already is by saying pretty much whatever he wants. Which is entirely his right.

You have that right too. So do I.

Sometimes I say some pretty stupid stuff but not nearly as much stupid stuff as I think. You see not only do I have the right to say whatever I want, I also have the right not to. I have the right to remain silent.

So do you.

I wish I had a dollar for every time I knew I would have been better off NOT saying something about a nano second after I said it. That by the way is often easier said than done.

But I’ve gotten better at it. I’ve also got a long way to go. I’m willing to bet a lot of people reading this post are just like me.

So what if together, we paused for a moment before we say anything and ask ourselves if what we are about to say adds anything of value to anyone. Ask ourselves if what we are about to say improves on our circumstances or the circumstances of the person we’re about to say it to.

On the days I do that successfully I say a whole lot less. I and the people around me are often a whole lot better off because of it. I’m going to work at having more days where I say less so that the things I do say will matter more.

Will you join me?

The Duck Dynasty Debacle Continued

OK, so I wasn’t sure I should write the first post on this topic but I was pleasantly surprised with many of the comments I received. Yes, there where some who said I should die and others who said I was every bit as hateful as Phil. But most comments were serious and thoughtful and added a lot to the discussion. 

I received a tweet this morning about a high school teacher in southwest Ohio who has been suspended from his job for something he said. The person who sent me the tweet said he would like to see me defend this guy’s right to free speech and expressing his opinion.

A couple of things. First, I didn’t defend Phil’s right to free speech on the first post. Second, neither what Phil said or what this teacher is reported to have said are free speech issues. 

It seems a lot of folks don’t really understand the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. It says and I paraphrase here, that you can say whatever you want. It’s doesn’t say anything about protection from being fired from your job for saying anything you want. 

The fact is, you can be fired for saying the sky is blue if your employer doesn’t like you saying it. So long as they fire everybody who says the sky is blue they have no problem.  All the First Amendment guarantees is that you won’t go to jail for saying it. 

Now, back to the tweet that put me on this topic. 

A high school teacher who allegedly responded to a black high school freshman that the nation doesn’t need another black president has been suspended. He responded to the freshman’s statement that his goal was to one day become President of the United States. The teacher’s board of education has indicated that the suspension is the first step in the firing process.

Since we already know this isn’t a freedom of speech issue let’s talk about his “right” to express his opinion. Many of the same people defending Phil’s “right” will be defending this teacher’s too but the situations are completely different.

Phil did what Phil is paid to do. He expressed how he felt, which is fine, and then he supported it with some outrageous comments. That’s reality TV. His network suspended him while taking what they described as the morale high ground and then caved like a cheap tent as soon as it became apparent that their position might cost them some money. 

The teacher did exactly what he isn’t paid to do. He isn’t paid to dash the hopes and dreams of his students. He is paid to teach, support, and mentor them. 

To be fair, I have no idea what the teacher really said, he claims the student has “misquoted” him. The only good thing for the teacher to have said to any student expressing such a worthy goal is something like this: “Well, good for you. Continue to work hard and you too can accomplish great things. I’m here to help you achieve your goal anyway I can.” 

I don’t know how that turns into anything near “we don’t need another black president” so the whole “misquoted” thing sounds weak to me. 

If it sounds like I’m holding the teacher to a higher standard than Phil you’re exactly right. If you don’t like what Phil says just change the channel. The student can’t change the channel. He is required to be there; the teacher is in a position of authority. The teacher is a leader and leaders willingly sacrifice certain “rights” in order to lead effectively. 

I don’t care what the teacher believes, he can believe and think whatever he wants. But   because he is in a position of authority he is also in a position of “imposing” his opinions on others. Because the student can’t “escape” the opinion of his teachers, the teachers should not be expressing those opinions while in the presence of their students. 

I hope this doesn’t become a big controversy because it shouldn’t. If what the teacher is alleged to have said is true, then the teacher said something really stupid. Does anybody really want a teacher like that teaching their kids? 

Maybe the teacher could start his own reality show, there are plenty of networks that could use one.