Letter: Freedom of speech is a finite right

From: John Kinnaman


The French problem with Charlie Hebdo set me thinking. Freedom of speech. It’s a sacred privilege, right? Well maybe not, if it affects me. Why not?

If a guy lives alone without neighbors, he can do as he pleases, go where he wants and scream his head off. But just one neighbor creates a line he should not cross without permission if he wants to keep peace and good feelings. And screaming too loud could be a problem. Lines.

May I use the term “civilization” to describe the process of intentionally swapping a few privileges for peace and comfort? To do this swap, we invented something called governments. They define the lines that confine us: How fast may I drive? How loud should I set my speakers? Why should I mow my yard? Makes sense, but there are those who respond, “Don’t tell me what to do.” For them, privileges are sacred and must be actively guarded.

If you disagree with me, that’s your privilege. If you insult me, you do so at a risk. If you humiliate me, with malice, publicly, you’ve crossed a line you know is there. Someone wise suggested treating others as you’d like to be treated.

Clever idea. Many uses.