A Dialogue on Freedom of Speech
“Come over here, kid. I have things to tell you,” said the father.
“What sorts of things, dad?” said the son.
“First, tell me, how old are you, son?”
“So, now I should tell you about one principle. That is freedom of speech.”
So they sat the father and son, to discuss a matter of great importance.
FATHER: Freedom of speech is when you are free to say anything you want.
SON: Can I say that I want a bigger bike?
FATHER: No! No… You see, you have a bike.
SON: But you said I can say anything I want.
FATHER: Of course. But there are things that you should be careful about.
SON: What sorts of things?
FATHER: First, you should know that daddy can’t buy you a bigger bike. Because you can’t ride a big bike, and daddy can’t afford it anyway. And things you should be careful about include anything regarding gender and sexuality, name-calling, criticism, and more.
SON: OK. Can I say that I hate white people? They are stupid.
FATHER: Absolutely not! That’s racism! also judgemental! and also name-calling!
SON: But dad, my friend John is the dumbest kid on earth.
FATHER: No name-calling! Besides, that doesn’t mean all white kids are daft. And stop judging kids!
SON: Ah! What about “I hate people?”
FATHER: That’s slightly better, but it’s still a hate crime.
SON: Is there anything I can say that won’t be bad?
FATHER: No. That’s exactly what I wanted to talk about. You see, for different reasons, almost anything that can be said would be offensive to someone somewhere. That’s the whole point of political correctness, my son. Good people are working on it so that no one will get upset by words.
SON: Why would people get upset by words?
FATHER: That’s a good question. No one really knows… People get emotional if you speak truthfully. People are soft. You should be careful around them.
SON: Wait. What is truthful speech?
FATHER: Speaking your mind is truthful speech.
SON: So, I can say that I hate people.
FATHER: No! You can say pretty much anything except that. Don’t even think that! Also, forget about a bigger bike.
SON: So, please tell me why there’s nothing that can be said that won’t be bad.
FATHER: Right! I told you about truthful speech. The thing is, you should always tell the truth. And truth always hurts someone. We don’t want anyone to get hurt, do we?
SON: No. Because if we do, they can say something to hurt us.
SON: How about speaking my mind when no one is around?
FATHER: You can do that. But you should still be wary. Nasty words can hurt your soul if not anyone else’s.
The next day
FATHER: What did you do, son?!
SON: John used the N word. I didn’t like it, so I punched him in the face.
FATHER: Why?! I told you, you should not let what people say upset you.
SON: Yes, that’s quite true, indeed. The fact of the matter is, that wonderfully crafted explanation of yours on freedom of speech changed my perspective towards any matter regarding language.
FATHER: Sigh… Don’t speak like that. People would think you are a snob.
SON: Fuck off, dad!