During firearms training, with marksmanship and safety protocol, instructors stress that you are responsible for every round that leaves the barrel of your firearm because you cannot undo your intentional or accidental harm.
Likewise, once a word is uttered in anger, it cannot be retrieved, especially in this digital age where words are preserved for eternity. Words are not weapons, and there are no physical consequences, but emotional wounds are often suffered.
Senators and members of Congress are immune from slander or criminal charges when speaking from their respective floors. Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif, reading from a prepared script, told several lies about the president’s actions. When later confronted by a courageous reporter, Schiff tried to walk it back, claiming it was parody. His vicious lies were a lot of things, none of which was parody.
Schiff will not suffer any civil or criminal sanctions for his words. Neither will Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Minnesota, who is selling shirts bearing a vile, despicable pronoun to describe President Donald Trump.
To the surprise of many, being rude is not against the law. Besides, the prisons are already full.
Sending wayward gestures and words toward others, unlike deadly bullets fired negligently or accidentally, are protected by our First Amendment and are free from criminal prosecution, at least for now.
Stationed in Belgium in the late ’80s, we became good friends with Stella, a colonel’s wife. Stella did not have a malicious molecule in her body and was rarely angered. One time, however, a reckless motorist cut her off in traffic. More in fear than from anger, Stella tried to give said driver “the finger.” Stella couldn’t remember which finger to give, so she cycled through all digits, including her thumb. Sadly, Stella is no longer with us, but remembering her attempt to find the right gesture always makes me smile.
We haven’t reached the threshold of banning books or jailing folks for offensive words or gestures, but we are close.
I believe the Southern Poverty Law Center, once a reliable source for identifying hate groups and trends, has devolved to a vicious, political entity that has issued the edict that the hand gesture for “OK” is now a signal for white supremacy. Could “the finger” be next?
In New York City, one may be fined up to $250,000 for uttering or writing the term “illegal immigrant” in a hateful manner. The phraseology czar who determines the level of emotion behind words has not been appointed yet.
A bigger question concerns the consequences of not paying such a fine: Does one go to a New York City jail for uttering a word in a hateful manner?
In California, there is a ban on conversion therapy, and it is unlawful to counsel a minor about his or her sexual orientation. Not to the surprise of many Christians, some activists want this law to pertain to biblical teachings in an attempt to ban parts of the Bible and punish followers of Christ.
Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
Tyrants, such as Schiff has been called, if given an ounce of authority, could easily facilitate the transition of an electronic lynching to a public hanging.
Citizens should stay vigilant and never overlook an opportunity to protect the First Amendment, which is now suffering the wounds of a thousand cuts.
Dan Jennings is a retired Army captain and a retired BCPD lieutenant. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.