Opinion: The freedom to be respectful

The United States of America, the land of opportunity. In America, you have the freedom to be educated, say what you want, and become what you want regardless of your gender, race, or religion.

This is an amazing freedom that many other countries do not fully have, which we take for granted. We should be able to express ourselves in any way we want; however, there are times when using freedom of speech can cross a line, and many current events happening around the United States prove this to be true.

A controversial issue that has been on the rise has to do with football players who have been kneeling during the national anthem. These have been peaceful acts of protest to raise awareness for racial inequality. However, the national anthem is a time when we rise together. It is not a matter of race, but a matter of being American.

We stand united to honor our country and the people who have fought and continue to fight for it. If it weren’t for the brave souls who leave their families and travel to extremely dangerous locations and risk their lives for us every single day, then we might not have many of the rights we have now. We owe it to these soldiers to stand and give them our respect. There is a time and a place for peaceful protesting. However, the national anthem is not one of them.

Across the country, different protesting groups have become violent in order to achieve justice. For example, Black Lives Matter, an organization to raise awareness about racial inequality and police brutality, have been the fault of recent violent protests. In St. Louis, BLM groups protested the fatal police shooting of an African American male. According to an article run by CNN, a reputable and popular news channel: “More than 120 people were arrested Sunday as protesters attacked police, broke windows and flipped over trashcans, authorities said…’Some criminals assaulted law enforcement officers and threw chemicals and rocks at them. All of the officers’ injuries were minor or moderate. All will be returned to duty soon,’ acting Police Commissioner Larry O’Toole said.”

A way to prevent these violent protests would be to educate students more about the U.S. Constitution. We would be able to know our rights, and how we can lawfully use them. If being remaining calm and controlled during street protests becomes too much of an issue, other ways of peacefully protesting include mass petitions, posters, silent protests, fasting, etc.

To peacefully protest is to raise awareness for something that you believe should be changed or brought attention to, and is the best way to express your freedom of speech. Violence such as burning cars, breaking windows, and assaulting pedestrians puts others’ lives at risk, which cannot be tolerated and do not spread a good message of the ideas that you are trying to bring attention to. These protests are an example of when freedom of speech crosses a line.

A subject that is not as serious but is still just as important is teachers’ freedom of speech rights in a school environment. School is for learning and should be considered as safe space for everyone. Extremely controversial political issues should be avoided as much as possible in classroom settings. Teachers should avoid giving out their opinions, especially if they belittle different points of view that others may have. Even though this is an expression and exercise of the first amendment, it can cause students to feel unwelcome, become influenced, and feel singled out, which should never happen at school.

The freedom of speech protects our right to say and do as we please, but it does not mean that there won’t be consequences. We deserve to be able to speak our minds without feeling afraid. However, we need to do this peacefully and respectfully according to the law.