Last week’s clash between neo-Nazis and the antifa brought into the public square a debate over whether protecting our right to free speech overrules the moral responsibility of stopping hate speech. And while many Americans counter-argue with the famous quote, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it,” one does have to take pause as to whether or not some things should ever, indeed, be said to begin with.
And that goes for both sides. A lesser-known story was a call for Donald Trump’s assassination on Facebook by a Democratic Missouri state senator. This kind of rhetoric by a public official is not only reckless; it’s extremely dangerous.
The week’s unraveling brought out the strongest of emotions in all of us. But now is not the time to respond with more hate or violence. As Martin Luther King Jr. so aptly stated, and Barack Obama famously tweeted, “darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
There are many causes worthy of our right to free speech, and we should be standing up for them in these times.
But here’s the thing: as soon we resort to hate speech and violence, attention is taken away from the cause and the naysayers are given a perfectly valid reason to discredit the effort.
The National Institute for Civil Discourse calls on all elected officials, journalists and Americans to consider the importance of our public and private statements.
Even though frustrations may be high, we must always consider the power of our words. We must pause, control our emotions, and reenter when we feel grounded.
We invite you to join our Revive Civility initiative, and partner with us to focus on using the power of our words so that they are heard and so that we hear others. It is in that space in which we can find the true solutions.