A commercial begins with the face of a seemingly middle-aged white woman who looks angry, but could pass for a “run-of-the-mill” soccer mom who is active in her local PTA and or homeowners association. But in an instant, her rhetoric transforms her into an instrument of division, an instigator of fear, and the voice of extreme nationalism.
“They use their media to assassinate real news. They use their schools to teach children that their President (referring to Donald Trump) is another Hitler. They use their movie stars and singers and comedy shows and award shows to repeat their narrative over and over again. And then they use their ex-president (referring to Barack Obama) to endorse the resistance; all to make them march, make them protest,— make them scream racism and sexism and xenophobia and homophobia to smash windows, burn cars, shutdown interstates and airports, bully and terrorize the law abiding. Until the only option left is for the police to do their jobs and stop the madness. And when that happens, they’ll use it as an excuse for their outrage. The only way we stop this, the only way we save OUR country and OUR freedom is to fight this violence of lies with a clinched FIST of truth!” Her words end defiantly, yet with a sense of pride by saying, “I am the National Rifle Association of America. And I am freedoms’ safest place.”
Throughout the commercial, images of burning cities, violent protests, and police confrontations, make America look like a war zone. I am not naive. Not since the 60’s at the height of the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War, have we seen this level of civil unrest and mass protest. Not since the 60’s have we witnessed this level of on-going protest which far too often has led to physical and at times violent altercations, arguably fueled by political and ideological differences. For the first time in our nation’s history, I believe ‘Partyism’ has literally TRUMPED racism, as it relates to American intolerance.
For the record, the woman narrating the National Rifle Association advertisement has the right to freely express her opinions without censorship or restraint. However, freedom of speech should always be accompanied by responsibility. Take the 1919, the Supreme Court case of Schenck vs. The United States, where Justice Oliver Holmes wrote in the courts final unanimous decision: “The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic.”
Too often, Freedom of Speech is the rock used by cowards to spew hatred, fear, maliciousness, and extremism without consequence. Idi Amin, a former Ugandan president best known for his brutal regime and crimes against humanity once said, “There is freedom of speech, but I cannot guarantee freedom after speech” Our Democracy, as imperfect as it is, best articulates the responsibility of Freedom of Speech through Justice Oliver Holmes’ closing words on the courts final decision: “The words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent.” Yes, the First Amendment does guarantee certain freedoms and prohibits Congress from restricting the press or the rights of individuals to speak freely. But it also guarantees the right of citizens to assemble peaceably and to petition their government.
For evil to succeed, all it needs is for good men to do nothing.
—Martin Luther King Jr.