Silencing Speech

“Let’s keep our voices down.”

Keep Quiet

A good friend of mine was visiting me last week in Austin. As we leisurely sat conversing in a local bar, he made the above statement. It seems he didn’t want anyone to hear our conversation. Our crime? Talking about Natural law.

What is natural Law?

Natural law is defined as a philosophy that certain rights or values are inherent by virtue of human nature and universally cognizable through human reason. Historically, natural law refers to the use of reason to analyze both social and personal human nature to deduce binding rules of moral behavior. The law of nature, being determined by nature is universal.

We live in a time when many people are discontented with what Natural Law has offered them – especially as it relates to the LBGT community, so my friend wanted to keep our conversation as private as possible. As he went on to say, “There are some things no longer allowed to be said in public.” You see, he works in the technology field where having an opinion contrary to support of homosexuality, gay marriage or global warming can adversely affect his career prospects.

We now live in a day and age when simply expressing an opinion different than the prevailing “wisdom” can land you in the poor house.

This movement to restrict speech is specially prevalent on college campuses.  There, students are demanding “safe zones.” A safe zone is essentially a zone where people will support and help each other and where no conflicting points of view are allowed. It has gotten to the point that Yale University  is considering a campus ban on the First Amendment in order to create “safe zones” for students. The point of these zones is that students won’t have to hear anything that will disturb their sensibilities.

At Yale it began when Yale Professor Nicholas Christakis sent out an email to students in advance of Halloween suggesting that they shouldn’t be overly sensitive about costumes.  He further encouraged the students to be tolerant and avoid trying to censor expression. For this, Professor Christakis had the pleasure of being screamed at by Yale students for his insensitivity.

Needless to say, it is disturbing to an increasing number of people that free speech is being stifled or, in some cases, even prohibited.  This trend began when the culture allowed itself to go down the road of Political Correctness. Political Correctness prohibits a whole slew of words and phrases that are no longer allowed expression in the public domain.  We no longer use the term “Black”…but instead must use African-American.  Illegal immigrants are simply immigrants, lest we offend. The permissive use of some words while banning others has caused massive confusion in the workplace and legal profession as well.

A few years back, I was friendly with a financial advisor, Eric, who was from Jamaica but worked in our California office. There had been numerous complaints within the company about about office policies. Finally, a lawsuit was filed against the firm by its employees. A large number of African-American employees were suing over what were alleged to be discriminatory practices. In particular, the issue was how and to whom accounts were referred out. Eric was part of the lawsuit. When I asked him how was it possible that he was involved in the case he just laughed.  He said ” Steve, get with the times. You and I both know that I am from Jamaica; but, here in the U.S. I am seen as an African-American because I am black.” He laughed because he knew that what I was questioning was a legitimate issue. However, once all blacks were reclassified as African-Americans, Eric knew he could jump on board (and gravy train) of the class action lawsuit.

On numerous occasions, a good friend of mine has told me that he feels the Left’s ultimate goal is the annihilation of free speech. He argues that, toward that end, the Left was smart in establishing dominance in the Arts.  Since since the 1960’s, there has been a dramatic assault upon traditional American values by way of  television and film. The intention has been to mock and denigrate American values. In T.V., it is virtually impossible to find a show that reaffirms the American family or American values. This relentless assault has taken its toll.

The Left was able to market its lower standards and, dare I say, filth claiming their protection of free speech. Now, with the culture conquered, the Left attacks the Right with censorship, politically correct language and safe zones.  Given the Left’s control of the arts, the only way conservative projects get done these days is usually by independent means. Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ was totally self funded because Hollywood studios did not want to finance the film. Seems a bit strange that with over 240 million Christians in the U.S, Hollywood would not want to fund a movie about Jesus.

In fact, this double standard is a classically Progressive approach that can be seen in taxation as well.  Once the Left gets rich, they want to shut the door on everyone coming up behind them.  Once wealthy, Leftists, avail themselves of the same tax loopholes for the rich they complained of on the way up… while creating economic policies that unduly burden the middle class with paying for more and more ineffective big government programs championed the Left…making it harder and harder for others to climb their own way up the economic ladder.

The fact is that if We The People don’t start pushing back and expressing our beliefs on controversial topics, using language that is accurate and truthful, albeit offensive to some, then we are all doomed. The Left has done a remarkable job at silencing dissent against the things they believe in; but, be assured this is just a prelude to a time when all dissent will be silenced.

Just today, SiriusXM radio “suspended” The Glenn Beck Program for one week pending a reevaluation of its propriety and acceptability because fiction author Brad Thor was on Beck’s show last week where he posited a hypothetical proposition which some people interpreted as calling for the assassination of a potentially dictatorial future President serving with an impotent Congress.  The hypothetical (read as: “make believe”) proposition was subject to interpretation; yet, it has ended in the convenient smack down of a personality many Progressives from both parties, quite frankly, hate.

While censorship and censure of Beck may not concern you, Protestant Pastor Martin Niemoller’s oft quoted words should:

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn’t a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.

Twelve million died and, apparently, we learned nothing.



Carole (contributing blogger to this post)


Brutal Honesty

honestyMy old Company Commander (CO), Mike, was a former Drill Instructor who could cut someone to pieces with words.  Lance Corporal Jones, although tough, was in downward spiral and Mike needed to get his attention. After his counseling session with Mike, Jones was broken.

Lance Corporal Jones only had a year left on his contract but was looking at a less than honorable discharge for his multiple infractions. Mike was the type of guy who made sure everybody paid the price for being a Marine. He wasn’t going to let Jones walk out of the Marine Corps as a dirt bag and allow him to claim that he was a good Marine.

It is well known in the military that a less than honorable discharge from the service is a death sentence in the civilian world. Lance Corporal Jones had a police job lined up and he knew that without that honorable discharge he was doomed. Mike verbally abused and yelled at the Jones for close to 30 minutes, the only way a former Drill Instructor can…and Jones was shaken.  After that meeting Jones, shaped up and got his honorable discharge.

Mike was not a proponent of the Dale Carnegie school of “How to win friend and influence people.”  He was in the business of training Marines and making sure they were well trained. He was a combat veteran and had won 2 bronze stars for heroism in combat. So he knew that training Marines well today meant less casualties tomorrow.

My relationship with him at the time was rocky at best but I had to admit I’ve never  met a better leader than he. I needed to be better and he made certain that I was.

Whenever I think of Mike it reminds me of the quote, “The person who is brutally honest enjoys the brutality as much as the honesty.” That was Mike. He loved the brutality of life and the disciplining of oneself. So whenever Mike felt I wasn’t measuring up to my responsibilities, he let me have it. No one was spared his wrath.

When Mike left the unit, I think the whole unit breathed a sigh of relief at not having to deal with him anymore. His presence was all encompassing and suffocating although the results spoke for themselves. A few years later I left the service and ended up working on Wall Street but took with me the lessons I had learned form him.

My first few years on Wall Street were a struggle and I knew I needed help. Although I was making money, I was not able to get the next job that would advance my career. So I hired a linguist who was expert in communications.  She was a short, stout, older Filipino woman who had been a Doctor at Stanford. Her demeanor and appearance suggested a gentle and caring soul but boy was I in for a shock.

Our first meeting was very informal in nature but when I went to the second meeting she ripped into me for the sloppy way I wrote and spoke. She had me write a one page letter about my job and with that one letter she was able to completely analyze me for who I was. I came to the unfortunate conclusion that  she was right on all counts.

In many ways, she reminded me of Mike. This became second encounter with someone being brutally honest.. Our counseling sessions were quite painful as learning under Mike’s command had been. At the time, I wondered what was it about me that made me attract these experiences? Or, perhaps, was  the universes preparing me for what lay ahead?

The linguist counselor died three years later. In those three years, she taught more about language, speech and the power of influence that have stayed with me until this day. After a particularly long session with her one night I said, “I finally understand what you have been  trying to say to me.” She glared at me and replied, “Never tell anybody that you understand them. To understand something means to “stand under’ them. That word takes away your power and gives power to them.

What I learned during these sessions, that although language can be subtle, the cumulative effect of using words that are not precise can leave the person hearing my words to doubt the power of my message.  Now that I have worked on trading desks for the majority of my life, I can attest to the power of using language that is concise and to the point.

The fact is both of these people had a huge influence in my life.  I do believe it was my willingness to stand naked in front of them and receive their instruction that benefited me.  I was fortunate enough to have had people willing to correct me and point the way.

I see this every day in my kids schools where parents go out of their way to protect their children from the harsh realities that await them in the real world. Grade inflation in the school system is so prevalent that it has its own section in Wikipedia.  We now have a whole class of students and parents that are unwilling to hear the truth that their children are not “measuring up”. So instead of opting for the truth, we just raise the scores for everyone

The only way to move forward in any endeavor in life is by having people in your life who are brutally honest. Short of that you’re likely to be surrounded by sycophants,who support you in living a fantasy devoid of reality and growth.