Is free speech now hate speech?
HINTS AND TRACES - Fr. Roy Cimagala (The Freeman) - March 10, 2017 - 12:00am

It certainly would seem so, if we have to consider the tone of the exchanges of ideas, opinions and views in the media today-especially the American media. It's amazing that people who flaunt their being tolerant, broad-minded, politically correct, etc. to the public, are throwing verbal barbs and inflammatory words to those who may have different or conflicting views.

There's a lot of toxic air around nowadays, and this should be a great challenge for us. We can always disagree with the others in many issues, but these disagreements are no excuse for us to indulge in seething and prolonged anger, if not bursting hatred.

Yes, we are free to express our views, but let's not curtail or undermine the same freedom that others also have to express their views either, no matter how lowly we consider their views to be.

We should expect a great variety of opinions and positions, especially today when the world is growing in sophistication. But this variety that can include not only different but also conflicting views should occasion in us an enrichment of our knowledge of things.

It should not occasion animosity, discord and division. We have to be wary when our reactions to the views of others start to hover around impatience, irritation, irony, sarcasm and the like.

We have to practice a lot of patience and understanding, trying to see where the others are coming from. Patience is our capacity to suffer or to bear, and in this life, we cannot help but suffer and bear the burden of the others.

We have to learn how to discipline our emotions and polish our temper. We should refrain from immediately answering back when we feel provoked.

We have to see to it that our heart is full of goodness and compassion, because, as the gospel has told us, "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." (Lk 6, 45) What we have in our heart should only be goodness that is stronger than evil.

Of course, the current problem we have in this field is a call for us to return to God. Without him, we would be at the mercy of our emotions, passions and intellectual powers. We should immediately realize that this situation is dangerous to us.

We all know that if these are not anchored on God, there is no other way but for them to go wild. What was meant by God to be good for us can turn to be a great evil if used simply by our own designs. This is a basic truth in human and Christian morality.

It does not mean that we would be impoverishing our public exchanges of views and opinions if we discipline and restrain our emotions, passions and intellectual powers. The contrary is true. When we discipline them, our public discourse would become more purified of unnecessary and confusing elements. It would become more focused on the essentials.

One thing we can always do is to rectify our intentions before, during and after our exchanges, and to cultivate the virtue of tactfulness.

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