I am an avid defender of our First Amendment right to free speech but when that speech imperils public safety, as it did in Garland Texas this past week at the ‘draw a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed’ contest, I can’t help but feel that the wiser choice for the Garland ISD (the owners of the venue) and the City of Garland would have been to NOT allow the event to take place.
The school district and the city potentially placed the lives of many of the citizens of Garland at risk for what was, in the end, an insult not just to radical elements in Islam but to the many million Muslims who mean no harm to anyone.
Garland was very fortunate that the only challenge to their nonsensical cartoon contest that night was posed by two amateurs who literally only lasted fifteen seconds when opposed by a single Garland Traffic Enforcement Officer. Had radical Islamic elements sent in their “A” Team of trained jihadi warriors, not only the Curtis Culwell Center but much of the surrounding area may have been devastated by their bombs and bullets.
Yes Free Speech is and always will be an essential element of American life but too often people like Pamela Geller (and the better known Fred Phelps) use it to spread hate against people they personally detest; that IS still free, protected speech but, in my opinion, it is not what was intended by the First Amendment. The question being re-asked today is: ‘Is hate speech also protected by the First Amendment’ and the Supreme Court has already ruled that YES hate speech is also Constitutionally protected speech (see Snyder v. Phelps )
So, when the skinny kid in the schoolyard raises his middle finger in the face of the large, mean-tempered bully he doesn’t have to worry about a Federal Warrant being issued for his arrest, he just has to worry about being well enough to get to school the next day.
Free speech, like everything else in life, has consequences and when you use it, not to present or defend your own ideas but to tear down others you must be prepared to accept the possible consequences (and in this case, retribution of people who are not bound by our rules, laws or culture). Pamela Geller and the other attendees at the Garland Event were standing up for their Constitutional right to “flip off” the bullies in Islam (something most every American wants to do) but I seriously doubt they had thoughtfully considered the possible consequences. Nor did the City of Garland; to them this was possibly a display of patriotism but more likely it was just an opportunity to enjoy some positive media coverage.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the majority of the citizens of Garland did not appreciate the thought that their city, or even their own neighborhood may have been turned into a war zone.
We are, without a doubt, at war with the radical elements of Islam but wars are meant to be fought by trained and equipped soldiers, not the bakers, butchers and retailers in a small American city.