One of my major pet peeves: people who claim their first amendment rights are being denied when they get criticized for saying stupid things in public. What a joy to read John Scalzi’s open reply to Kirk Cameron who recently complained about the negative public outcry when he shared his ideas on the “unnaturalness” of homosexuality.
This post isn’t about homosexuality. It isn’t about naturalness or unnaturalness. It isn’t even really about Kirk Cameron. It is about the quality of public discourse.
To be fair, Cameron complains about his treatment in the media but does not directly claim that his first amendment rights have been denied. That would be silly for someone who just had the rather unnatural opportunity to speak on the Piers Morgan CNN talk show. If anything, Cameron has been afforded an abundance of opportunity to speak.
And that’s what I love about Scalzi’s post. He reminds us that the First Amendment wasn’t intended to prevent people from getting offended. Quite the opposite. Some people, maybe most people, need to be offended.
We are forgetting our Enlightenment heritage. America’s genius is that we are a laboratory for ideas. America is a place where people from all walks of life rub up against each other, influence each other and challenge each other to make something new. We are strong when strong ideas are born. Strong ideas are born through opposition to lesser, weaker ideas. It is a kind of survival of the fittest. Don’t be afraid to put your opinion out there but be ready to get crushed by the force of other opinions.
Scalzi says it best: “If you want people to respect your ideas, get better ideas.”