Freedom of Speech – Politics vs Character

Like most, I don’t know what to believe, regardless of the source. This skepticism has been increasing over the past several years. Skepticism can be a healthy attribute until it becomes abundant mistrust.

For some reason, we have accepted that politicians may lie or wildly embellish the facts – if any facts exist. Unfortunately, our news outlets have furthered this divide between truth and sensationalism.

The exaggerations, mistruths, intentional redirection, and outright lies lack meaningful boundaries. Where are the guard rails that protect us from misinformation, or more accurately, disinformation? Misinformation is providing, usually accidentally, incorrect information. Disinformation is the intentional dissemination of known misleading information, aka lies.

It ain’t what you know that gets you into trouble, It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.

Mark Twain

I thought the First Amendment may provide adequate boundaries, especially around intentional mistruths. That is not the intent of the First Amendment.

The First Amendment protects our right to have an unfettered voice regarding our government. The persistent exception to this is if any expression constitutes an actual threat, incitement to imminent lawless action, discriminatory harassment, or defamation.

As I scrutinized this, I realized that any boundaries, other than the abovementioned exceptions, would certainly restrict freedom of speech. There’s another notable discrepancy – expecting our government to be the speech police while we also want the government to minimize its micro-management of our lives.

Our expectations can be summed up in one word – character.

What does it mean to have “good” character? I’m sure there are numerous answers to this question but let’s try to keep it simple. To be of good character means that your habits, actions, and responses are aligned and focused on your thoughtfulness of others and the overall good to be realized.  

 “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”

John Wooden

One definition of “character” is the aggregate of moral qualities by which a person is judged apart from intelligence, competence, or special talents. Morality is the principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior. Character is an amalgamation of so many aspects of one’s personality.

Good character comes from constant self-reflection of yourself. Good character is when you can reflect on your actions without rationalizing the reasoning or the results. In psychology, rationalization can be a defense mechanism to protect the ego from discomfort or distress.

Like many, as I was growing up, I was told to be respectful, even if I didn’t like what was being said. I was also told not to argue with those acting stupidly. The theory or reality is that they will bring you to their level and beat you with experience.

If you want to attack your opponent’s platform or their plans for the future by comparing and contrasting your plans – great. If your only way to win is to attack the person and the person’s family, then should we assume you have a weak platform, weak character, or both?

Politicians who gain office are leaders. Leaders of our community, our state, and our country. Leaders exemplify character for our youth, the population, and the world. A leader’s primary tools are sincerity, honesty, and dedication to making everyone for whom they are responsible successful.

Hostility towards others should never be confused with strength and bullying should never be confused with leadership. More accurately, it should be considered the opposite of strength and leadership.

“Name-calling and personal insults are the mortar for those with a weak foundation and weaker character.”

William Conner

To be clear, providing disinformation, name-calling, and character assault is the essence of a bully. Those who support bullies are themselves weak; It takes strength and good character to stand up to the bullies in our lives. Show me a leader who talks badly about others, lies, and gives out bad information, and I’ll show you an example of a bully – not a leader.

While the courts try to give a political speech more lead way as it pertains to the freedom of speech, I argue the leaders of our country should be held to a higher level of accountability.

Make character matter.

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