“I can’t remember if I cried, when I read about his widowed bride. But something touched me deep inside, the day the music died.” -- American Pie, Don McLean.
These few words from the iconic pop anthem of the 1970s keep running through my mind whenever I read about the state of free speech in America today. I, too, am touched deep inside when I see what if becoming the new norm nation-wide.
It didn’t happen with a big bang, an assassin’s bullet, or even a drone strike. It was a progressive advance over a few decades, like a slow-moving cancer, eating away at healthy cells, barely noticeable at first, and then spreading throughout the body politic.
It appeared under various synonyms; political correctness, moral authority, identity politics. But the root impact was the same and indistinguishable. More and more, as people became more easily offended by a word, thought or a deed, it became acceptable to stifle opinions that were not part of the group think. People who expressed radical ideas became ostracized by their former friends and co-workers, even family members.
Civil discourse devolved into name-calling, rational discussions became shouting matches, favoring the loudest of the participants. Mob mentality arose, squashing anyone who dared to think outside the box, or voice a dissenting view. If you aren’t with us, you are against us. There can be no middle ground.
Left versus right, white versus black, conservative versus progressive; everyone is forced to take a side. No one is allowed to have a middle ground favoring some proposals by each group, for fear of being labeled racist or fascist simply because you are trying to see another’s point of view. You must be 100% one or the other, and you must support the group’s mentality, no matter how radical or how much it goes against what you actually believe.
Mobs rise up in protest whenever someone from the other side utters a word or makes a statement that the group finds offensive. Calls to have the person removed from their current position fill the airwaves and social media statuses, with no regard to what that person may or may not have accomplished during their tenure. A tape may surface from 20 years past where the person made an off-color, racist, or sexist remark, and the army rises to destroy that person’s career, without even verifying the context of the actual integrity of the tape.
A classic example is the current claim by a former White House employee that she has a tape that reportedly has President Trump using the n-word. No one claims to have heard the tape, even the accuser, no one actually knows if the tape actually exists as of this writing, yet the claim of its existence is good enough for the media and the Sunday news shows to fill the airways with the accusation.
Should the claim prove false, no such media saturation will be given to the retraction, that’s for sure. It doesn’t fit the narrative.
And then there’s social media, which has positioned itself as the moderator of free and “appropriate” speech. None of the social media moguls were elected to represent the people, no one voted to give them such power, except by condoning their own biased opinions.
Should such a tape exist, and I pray it doesn’t for the good of the country, the most powerful nation on Earth will be on the brink of a constitutional crisis over the utterance of one offensive derogatory racial slur. Just let that sink in for a minute.
Free speech in America wasn’t legislated away from us. There is no amendment to the Constitution. We strangled it to death with our own hands and our words, slowly and methodically, by sheepishly and blindly following the leader of our particular cult over the cliff.
Bye, bye Miss American Pie.