This past week, the U.S. House of Representatives saw what could be considered one of the greatest atrocities in the history of democratic society.
No, I’m not talking about the health care bill. I’m talking about the absolutely reprehensible actions of Republicans seeking to interrupt and censor the remarks of other representatives.
Dozens of members of the House Women’s Caucus, attempting to ask for unanimous consent to extend their remarks concerning the health care bill’s relation to abortion coverage, were repeatedly interrupted without cause.
Every few words a Democrat spoke, a Republican would stand and start repeatedly objecting. In the first 40 minutes of the debate, Republicans launched more than 75 different objections and 35 parliamentary inquiries in an attempt to silence the majority opposition.
While I realize that Republicans are not used to being the minority, there is absolutely no justification for this childish tantrum. Just because you don’t get your way does not mean that you are allowed to try to silence the opposition.
Republican friends of mine have been quick to point out that there were only a few Republican representatives doing this and that even Fox News was mocking them.
Their position is that you cannot judge the entire party by the actions of a few and that censoring the views of others is not indicative of conservatism. If this were some kind of isolated incident, I would probably believe them. However, when examining the modern history of free expression, one thing becomes abundantly clear: most of the people who try to restrict expression are conservatives.
Social conservatives have repeatedly attempted to ban the sale of pornography and other adult content. In 2006, conservative Senators led by Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) attempted to amend the United States Constitution to prohibit the defacement and burning of the American flag.
Religious conservatives have repeatedly tried to shut down speech they consider obscene and critical to them, including the humorous satire which led Larry Flynt and the late Jerry Falwell to the United States Supreme Court.
Last and certainly least are George W. Bush’s free speech zones. If you had a sign in favor of Bush, you were allowed to be in the crowd when he spoke or passed by in a parade. But if your sign expressed opposition, you were cordoned off to a fenced in area far away from where anyone would ever see you.
In the spirit of fairness, I will concede that the Left is guilty of this too, at least in one instance. Liberals have managed to pass laws restricting protesters access to clinics where abortions are performed.
I don’t agree with this ban, but when weighed against the plethora of attacks of free speech by the Right, it is clear who the enemy of the First Amendment is.
What people need to realize is that the same right that gives you the ability to fly your flag at half mast in mourning gives your neighbor the exact same ability to burn his flag in anger.
The same First Amendment protects both a “I Support our Troops” group as it does a “F*** the Troops” group. At the point where we start banning speech because we don’t agree with it is the point where speech stops being free.
While you may consider it un-American to burn a flag, it is a much greater sin against our Constitution to make flag burning illegal.
If we disagree with someone, we should let them speak and then refute their points. In short, as my esteemed colleague on the Student Supreme Court so eloquently put it, we should not use less words, we should use more.