I strongly support freedom of speech. But lately I've been torn between supporting it and wanting people to shut their idiot mouths.
Freedom of speech, by the way, does not apply to the private sector. When John Rocker was fined by Major League Baseball for publicly spouting racist drivel, people defended his "freedom of speech." Those people are morons; freedom of speech means you can't get arrested for saying something. It does not mean you can mouth off in a magazine and keep your job.
The basic concept of the Bill of Rights is that we all have freedoms as long as they don't infringe on the freedoms of anyone else. In other words, you are free to mow your lawn because it's your property. But you are not free to mow your lawn at 4:00 AM, because then you're infringing on your neighbor's freedom of sleep.
Freedom of speech is one of the most important concepts in America. But I also believe that, as citizens of this great country, we should also have the freedom to not be barraged by morons.
For example, if when in the midst of a political debate, you use the words "dillhole," "NASCAR," or "Jesus," you are violating my freedom. Especially if you started the debate against my will while on an airplane, as if the computer system seating us next to each other gave you the right to prevent me from sleeping.
If you're the type of person that always says "just my luck" whenever anything bad happens, you're violating my freedom. To insist that every little thing is just your luck means you think there's some cosmic plan that involves an all-knowing and all-powerful deity purposely getting tartar sauce on your Capri pants. If you spill food on your lap, it's not fate, it's a distinct lack of hand-eye coordination. The rest of us have been eating properly for years give it a shot sometime.
If you come to a comedy club and speak when you're not spoken to, you're violating my freedom. And the freedom of everyone around you who didn't pay $10 to see you exercise your alcohol problem. Professional comedians have gone through years of training to get where they are. Hecklers have merely gone through their entire table's two drink minimum.
If you ever discuss waiting for a young celebrity to turn 18, you're violating my freedom. Celebrities will not date you. Ever. Especially when they find out that you've been leering at them since they were in middle school. The best chance you have with them is before they turn 18 since the more they mature, the more likely they'll realize that anyone who is sitting and waiting for someone to be legal is a sketchy creep.
If you hang a "God Bless America" sign on an overpass, as if that's going to influence his decision, you're violating my freedom. My god isn't driving down route 12 thinking, "There was something I had to do today. I washed the car, got a haircut, spilled tartar sauce on that girl's Capri pants . . . that's it! I forgot to bless America! Good thing I saw that sign. Speaking of signs, I could really go for a zesty chicken border bowl. I hope I don't spill anything."
If when giving me directions, you assume I'm from the area, you're violating my freedom. I asked you for directions because I swallowed my pride enough to admit I don't know where I'm going, not because I'm testing you. I don't know which way north is. I don't know how to get to 610 on my own. And you should know I don't know this especially if you work at the front desk of a motel. Yesterday I called a Motel 6 asking how to get there and the attendant's first question was "are you from the area?" It's safe to assume I'm not. If I was from the area, odds are I wouldn't be staying at a Motel 6.
If you get into an argument about whether or not your watch has the correct time, you're violating my freedom. Most cell phones are 100% accurate. So are a lot of computer clocks. Your watch is not. And if it is two minutes slow, who cares? That doesn't mean you're a bad person. Just that you'll be two minutes late for the next meeting at the hall of stupid.
And, most importantly, if you write me a letter telling me that you disagree with this column without explaining why, or that you usually like my column but this particular one sucked, or that you think I'm too bitter (as if social criticism is not inherently negative), you're violating my freedom.
Which is totally just my luck.
Steve Hofstetter is the author of Student Body Shots, which is available at www.SteveHofstetter.com. He can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.