I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, being able to say what I want in the way that I choose. If you follow the news at all, you are probably aware that in many places in the world stating an opinion, writing about certain things, or acting in a certain way can result in persecution, imprisonment, or death. Fortunately in the United States we have the freedom to say, write, or do virtually anything ― so long as we are willing to accept the consequences of our actions.
To use a very simple example, WordPress provides me with the opportunity to publish this blog. Basically I can freely post anything I want ― text, graphic, video ― so long as I don’t violate the Terms of Service agreement. The agreement for instance prohibits posting sexually explicit images. If I post sexually explicit images WordPress can take down my blog. That’s fine. They provide me with a free service and I should respect their rules. The lesson to take away from this isn’t that WordPress can take down my blog, but that I won’t go to jail or be beaten or executed or posting the images. Even though I violated the WordPress rules, what I did was still protected by the first amendment.
In case you don’t remember it from civics class, the first amendment states: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
As a writer, the right to freely express myself it paramount. My eBook, Any Tomorrow: The Calling, contains within the context of the storyline: violence, explicit sex, religious references, historical references, and physics. These are all things that could get me stoned to death in some places. Yet in America I am free to write whatever I want.
Now, with that being said there, of course, is the problem of access to whatever is written. Would I want a ten year old to read my eBook? Probably not. Would reading my book turn the child into some sort of violent, sex crazed, anti-religious, horror junkie? Somehow I doubt it. But as a writer it’s not my job to protect little minds and libidos. Parents bear the responsibility for what their children read.
As a writer it is my job to tell a story in the form I deem appropriate using the medium I deem necessary. Does the story have to be in a traditional format? Of course not. I am free to change the form and medium. I can tell the story using images, video, spoken word, or interactive game play. I can even print it out and seal it between two covers. Technology makes our opportunities to communicate almost limitless.
So should everything be available to everyone? To my mind the answer is ‘yes’. Expression shouldn’t be regulated or censored. Not everything is appropriate for everyone, but everyone should have the opportunity to decide whether or not to be exposed to it. The exception, as I already said, is children. They are under the purview of their parents or guardians. Everyone else should have the unrestricted opportunity to buy or not buy, read or not read, experience or not experience.
With all this being said, so what? I guess with Independence Day approaching the idea of the right of freedom of expression was on my mind. While listening to NPR reporting about reporting about political and religious oppression that the world is so full of I tried to imagine a world without the ability to freely express myself and I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t find the words to describe what that might be like.
That would be true horror.
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© Copyright 2011 by Kevin Fraleigh.