The Enemies of Free Speech Don’t Get a Say Here
1: the quality or state of being free: as
a : the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action
b : liberation from slavery or restraint or from the power of another : independence
c : the quality or state of being exempt or released usually from something onerous <freedom from care>
d : ease, facility <spoke the language with freedom>
e : the quality of being frank, open, or outspoken <answered with freedom>
f : improper familiarity
g : boldness of conception or execution
h : unrestricted use <gave him the freedom of their home
a : a political right
b : franchise, privilege
“Freedom.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 22 Aug. 2016.
One day not too long ago I found myself being asked to take on the ownership role for the Sterling Heights Local Politics Facebook group. My friend Mike Lombardini, owner and originator of the group, found himself being forced to move to another municipality because of family obligations, and he didn’t feel like the group should be owned by someone who didn’t live in Sterling Heights. Knowing that I share his strong feelings about the sanctity of the First Amendment, he felt he could entrust the site to me.
I willingly agreed to do so. I also made him the standing offer that I would be more than willing to transfer the ownership back to him, no questions asked, should he so desire.
Needless to say, this news was met with consternation on the part of a few council meeting regulars here in town. You see, I represent a particular viewpoint on the issues. My views are strongly held, and equally strongly stated. I promote my viewpoint and attempt to spread my thoughts and ideas both here, on Facebook, and in person because I believe in them.
Not everyone else does.
And that’s okay. People of conscience and good will sometimes differ on the right course to take, especially when it concerns the direction of an important city. Sterling Heights is perhaps the most important city in Macomb County, and it certainly numbers itself among the ten most important cities in the state. There will be differing opinions on things. It goes with the territory.
Unfortunately, there are those among us who do not take this view about dissenting opinions. Some of them were and are candidates for office. Some are people who I term “public citizens:” people who regularly, and publicly, comment on issues in the city at council meetings. I find it somewhat distasteful that not everyone in that group of folks shares the same equanimity and devotion to Constitutional principle on the matter of political speech that most Americans do, but that’s the way it goes.
Curiously, such folks are more than willing to use their own free speech rights to complain about those same rights when held by others of opposing points of view, but hypocrisy is part of the human condition.
At any rate, there has been a call for the city to come up with a policy governing what can and cannot be discussed on the Sterling Heights Local Politics group, as if the city somehow had something to say about that. They couch it in terms of the city’s potential liability for utterances made therein; as though the city would somehow get a black eye should somebody on Facebook say something untoward. Baloney!
I attribute this to the leftist, collectivist impulses of the people calling for it. Under this way of thinking, one is not allowed to have an opinion that is not government approved.
Let me be perfectly clear: I am not a leftist. I reject collectivism in all of its forms. I revere the freedoms that have been enshrined in the Bill of Rights as being basic human rights, articulated in that precious document as the law of the land. I will tolerate dissenting views on freedom, but I will not yield to them.
Further, neither this site, nor the Sterling Heights Local Politics Facebook Group will yield to calls for what amounts to censorship, either self-imposed or otherwise. It will not happen. Ever.
Now as you probably know, I happen to be a sitting member of the city’s Planning Commission. Apparently, some feel that translates into my statements on non-planning related issues somehow becoming the official position of the city. Nothing could be further from the truth! As a member of a city commission, I do not set official policy. I am not vested with executive powers. The sum total of my official duties as a Planning Commissioner consists of asking questions, making statements, and voting on the issues that come before the Planning Commission during the monthly meetings.
The views expressed here and on Facebook, et. al., are my own. My continued membership on that commission is predicated upon that being the case: the minute I have to censor myself on an issue unrelated to my official duties will be the minute I tender my resignation. This has been made clear to all involved; it’s not news to anyone who has been following my nomination and appointment.
Finally, this: politics is a strange game. Those who are on top today may well find themselves on the losing side tomorrow. Paraphrasing the words of former Vice President Dick Cheney, political types like myself tend to wear out their welcomes as time goes by. I am cognizant of this. The ephemeral nature of my relevance and participation in the political process is not lost on me; it’s part of the way it is. When faced with this, the only choice is to just do the best you can, and that means sticking to principles while remaining open to learning new information. With some luck, I’ll leave the place in better shape than I found it in. That’s the best I can hope for. Would that be the impulse of everyone involved…