Recent statements made in Social Media have made it clear that anything goes in America. Does our right to “free speech” allow us to say anything about anybody? Does it protect us from an effort to seek redress or to punish a person no matter how offensive the “tweet” or statement may be? Do we have a right to offend?
The statement by Roseanne Barr that Valerie Jarrett is what happens when Muslims and “Planet of the Apes” get together cannot be interpreted any other way than that it was designed to offend. Whether it was caused by addiction, ambien, mental illness or a momentary lapse of judgement is not that important. The fact of the matter is that it was said. There can be no doubt that many American view African Americans as more ape than human. I only hope this does not represent the view of the majority, Maybe November will give us a good idea of the collective thinking of those who vote.
President Trump has been of little help when it comes to this issue. The birther thing with President Obama was bad enough. But he went further. The statement that he did not know of the thinking of David Duke, or that there were “good” people on both sides of the Charlottesville massacre , or his vilification of NFL players, or his failure to acknowledge the Waffle House hero, or bringing Miller and Bannon into the White House are only a few examples of the dog-whistle being blown. Few people who have observed this would say this has not created a climate where you can say anything you want without fear of reprisal.
You can say anything you want. What you cannot expect is for people not to respond. When I am offended by what you say I will call it out. Whether you are Roseanne Barr or Samantha Bee, you cannot say anything you want and expect people not to kick back. The network, the sponsors, the offended, and all involved have rights too. And if they expect to lose money because of your big mouth or stupidity, they can cancel you, not sponsor you, sue you, or use any remedy available to them. You are the one who created the problem.
We should have learned that there are times when it is best to “hold your tongue” or not press the send button. I doubt if the feelings that people have, particularly about race, will ever change. I am not hopeful. But what is required is that we be cordial to one another. We should respect there may be other points of view that are not our own. Sometimes it is best to keep your mouth shut. It is not always funny. You may cross the line.