Free speech isn’t free

“You talk too much, you talk too much,
I can’t believe the things that you say everyday
If you keep on talking baby,
You know you’re bound to drive me away.” — George Thorogood

We have seen two reactions to the past week’s events from most conservatives. Both reactions prove yet again that the party of responsibility has taken a break from that mantra and taken on the mantle of the party of whining. Essentially, they are taking no responsibility for the events of the past week and have just proven to be tone deaf.

The main takeback seems to be that we collectively should ignore what has happened in the last week. We should let bygones be bygones and move on in favor of unity. Unity. That’s been the big buzzword. I’m not exactly sure how that is supposed to work.

A few years ago we caught our daughter stealing. We have made a habit out of withdrawing a certain amount of cash per week so that we can make routine purchases with cash. We might use it when going out to eat or going to the grocery store. It keeps us from using our credit card too often which keeps our identity from being stolen and keeps the balances on those cards low. She was stealing that cash from us.

The first part of the reckoning was determining exactly how much was stolen. Then, we moved on to the whole idea behind what the cash was for and why she felt she was entitled. At that point, she understood where she was wrong. However, she wasn’t off the hook. She had to repay every penny back. Part of that was through labor around the house and part of that was in taking her allowance, Christmas, and birthday money. It took her awhile, but eventually she paid the money back. Now, she is forgiven.

The Catholic sacrament of reconciliation is a fascinating one (as all of the sacraments are). It’s one which is not shared with Protestants. Protestants teach us that we can go directly to God for forgiveness. I’m not here to argue which is better, but the Catholic version has a key step that can’t be overlooked. A part of the process of forgiveness is going through something called penance. You can look at it as a penalty for committing the sin, but it’s really a way to make amends for what has been done. The notion comes from the idea that one cannot be truly sorry for what they have done until they at least attempt to make restitution for their bad acts.

Obviously, that’s easier in some cases than others. If you have committed murder (say killing a member of the Capitol police) it is next to impossible to truly make restitution. However, the attempt to make restitution goes a long way. The hurt feelings don’t ever fully go away, but the act of saying you are sorry AND the act of making restitution certainly helps.

Conservative complaints in the past week seem to be fought on two different fronts, but they stem from the same issue. They want to be forgiven for their role in an event without saying they are sorry and without making any attempts to mitigate the fallout. They have complained incessantly about the president being banned on social media and many of them are complaining about losing their own Twitter followers. A number of them have even called it all censorship.

I can’t believe I have to do this, but let me breakdown the first amendment for everyone so there is no confusion. It starts off by saying, “Congress shall make no law…” If a private company chooses to ban you from its service or chooses to reduce your influence by banning people that followed you that is not censorship. You do not have a right to tweet.

Furthermore, the first amendment goes on to say to we have the right to freedom of speech, expression, religion, and to peaceably assemble. Supreme Court cases have long maintained that these rights are not absolute. If I am meeting to plot or execute insurrection then I am not peaceably assembling. If my speech incites violence it is certainly not free. I bear some weight for those subsequent events.

Conservatives bear a great deal of weight for the events of the past week. Their rhetoric has stoked the flames and enraged the unhinged members of their herd. As much as they might claim they didn’t mean for any of this to happen, it is hard to not see the connection between their words and the mob’s deeds. So, if they truly want unity they cannot get there merely by calling for unity. They need to do so much more.

First, they need to acknowledge that they have been unnecessarily stoking people’s anger and mistrust by incorrectly claiming their was fraud in this election. They must tell people that Joe Biden was elected in a fair and legitimate election. They must admit they were lying and ask for forgiveness for shamelessly lying to the American people. Some of them may even have to accept some legal punishment for stoking the rage that caused last week’s events.

In parlance, they have to pay it back. They have to go through their penance. You cannot unify without accountability. You cannot move forward until you fully acknowledge what has happened in the past. We have tried to do that before and it felt right in the moment, but we not know that it is not possible to really unite. Impeaching the president is a good first step, but it is only the first step. Now begins the hard work.

Author: sbarzilla

I have written three books about baseball including The Hall of Fame Index. I also write for thefantatasyfix.com. You can follow me on twitter @sbarzilla.

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