By Nicaela Giglia, Layout Editor
What does freedom of speech actually mean in our country? In some cases, it seems like “freedom of speech” is used as an excuse to justify a statement or feeling that might not have been expressed in a “politically correct” way. It is the scapegoat that takes on the burden of people’s uneducated or ignorant comments and is called upon as a universal defense that justifies any statement no matter what it is. It is an important part of the foundation of our country to be able to express ourselves and our beliefs, but it shouldn’t mean that we have the right to use this “freedom” to condemn others for their beliefs. We should only have the right to practice freedom of speech if we respect the rights of others to express their opinions.
This idea was sparked by the story of a woman on a “work paid” trip to the Arlington National Cemetery who posed for a photo while yelling and flipping off a sign that said, “Silence and Respect” and then posted it on Facebook. This led to a Facebook uproar where Lindsey Stone and her coworker were highly criticized for their actions and many people called for to be fired from her job at an elderly care center, Living Independently Forever, Inc. (LIFE). Stone and her co-worker (who took the photo) were put on unpaid leave and then consequently fired for their actions in response to the media coverage and social pressure. Both of the women apologized and gave the reason that they were just “challenging authority in general” and it was a “visual pun” and meant to portray the exact opposite of what the sign was implying. This leads to the question of is there a limit to freedom of speech and should the posting of this picture resulted in the women being fired when the intent wasn’t malicious?
Honestly, even though I respect the woman’s write to “freedom of speech” or even “freedom of expression” I can understand the sentiment behind those who would want the women fired due to their total disregard and disrespect for the men and women who have died to give us the right to speak freely. It didn’t seem to be a political statement or even really a statement at all other than two women who wanted to take a stupid “Facebook profile” worthy picture and act immaturely in the face of something serious. Stupidity for posting the picture on Facebook shouldn’t be the reason for getting fired, but the fact that it was a work related trip justifies LIFE deciding to terminate their employment.
One lesson to be learned from this is that even though you have the right to say what you want, it doesn’t necessarily mean you should…especially on a public social networking site where you employer or others might see it.