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Consider this quote from Abe Lincoln

"America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves."



Freedom of speech. One of the few rights we have as citizens of this fine country. What does it really mean though? I was having a conversation over the weekend with a couple of different people about recent activity on local internet blogging sites and about some of the comments that are left on those sites.

I won't begin to choose sides of the argument or even note here what was said nor whose blog it was, but it basically became a feeding frenzy as people are allowed to post anonymously to the site and say anything their heart desired. What began as a conversation about right and wrong, turned quickly into a series of comments that were both inflammatory if not down right slanderous. Individuals were attacked, families defamed and large groups lumped together as "the real cause of all the problems".

The most important essay piece I ever wrote was on the constitutional rights of freedom of speech and freedom of the press. That was many years ago, in my high school days and yet I firmly believe that many of the issues talked about then apply even today.

Freedom of speech allows us to speak our minds, free from the prosecution of the government. I can put up in my front yard a sign saying that I am against the raising of taxes, or for the war, or to ask our government to get us away from what may seem to be the beginning of a "One World Government", and I can do any of these knowing that the only repercussion may come from my neighbors or passers by who may call me a freak, or believe that I am out of touch. No government police will come knocking down my front door and hauling me away to a prison without due cause and just because I spoke my mind.

However, what most people miss in the discussion about freedoms is the simple and plain truth that with those freedoms comes responsibility. We must be diligent with our right and yet also vigilant that we don't allow ourselves to loose our common decency by hiding behind such rights and using them as a platform to allow our words to become a detriment or cause harm to the society.

Is there a place where freedom of speech ends? Absolutely. One can yell "Fire!" but doing so in a crowded room certainly is a criminal act. You can say that "Mr. X" is a so and so, or that he's dishonest or a cheat, but you better have the facts to back that statement up and by saying what you have said. If it causes harm to his business or property then you are riding a fine line between having the right to speak your piece and making remarks that are slanderous.

Although one is allowed the freedom to speak their minds. Allowing comments to be made, anonymously without a person being accountable for their words, and giving an open forum to anyone wishing to drag another person through the dirt and propping up those who wouldn't have the guts to say the same things in public or even to say those thoughts to the person on the receiving end of their hate and anger and evil tongue, is not only detrimental to the freedom of speech as it is intended, it is further destroying the age old adage of that rule which is older and more revered that the constitution... "Love thy neighbor". Most importantly friends, it makes each of us a little less kind, and a lot less closer to the people we should really be. Just a couple of things to think about next time we speak with our tongues rather than with our minds and our hearts.

See you next week...remember, we're all in this together.