Today begins “Free Speech Week.” Launched in 2005, the week is designed as “a unifying celebration, elevating the vision of the Founding Fathers above the political fray and recognizing free speech as something we can all believe in and cherish.”
Does it seem to you that free speech is more cherished or abused today?
One media watchdog group, “Media Matters for America,” regularly castigates Fox News and other conservative outlets. It frequently accuses those with whom it disagrees of lying, misleading, and using discredited sources. On the other side, a group called “Truth Revolt” highlights abuses it finds in liberal media and sometimes calls on advertisers to stop supporting certain programs.
Do an Internet search on “Ted Cruz,” and you’ll learn that he is (a) “our new McCarthy,” (b) “the GOP’s Nasty Newcomer,” (c) “living on another planet,” or (d) the man who “might just have won the future for the GOP.” President Obama is either (a) “the best President we’ve ever had” or (b) “the worst president this country has ever seen.”
Have American politics always been this divisive?
In the 1800 presidential campaign, John Adams called Thomas Jefferson “a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw sired by a Virginia mulatto father.” Jefferson described Adams as a “hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.” (I had to look up “hermaphroditical”—it’s not a compliment.) Even Martha Washington got into the act, telling a clergyman that Jefferson was “one of the most detestable of mankind.”
George Friedman notes that Abraham Lincoln was called a simple-minded country bumpkin; Franklin Roosevelt was described as a rich dilettante and socialist; and Dwight Eisenhower was characterized as a bumbling fool who is lazy and incapable of understanding the complexity of the world.
Granted that politics have never been fair, does it seem to you that our society is more divisive than ever? In a postmodern culture which has reduced “truth” to “opinion,” everyone is “entitled” to theirs. With 181 million bloggers telling us what they think and social media protecting our identity as we criticize others, will we become even more divided in the future?
Our first president advised, “Speak not injurious words neither in jest nor earnest; scoff at none although they give occasion.” God agrees: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29).
Billy Graham’s daughter Gigi once observed, “Daddy always taught us that we are to love, the Holy Spirit convicts, and God judges. The problem is that some Christians try to do all three.”