You know the one thing I love most about America? The fact that I don't have to be afraid of what I say. I discovered that here by the way, it was not a concept I was familiar with. My first attempt at free speech was half-assed and too full of myself but I loved every minute of it: while I was in university in the U.S. I was president of the Greek club on campus and the Armenian club asked me to write an article about the Armenian Genocide for their campus newspaper. So I did.
I wrote this three-column polemic against Turkey and the U.S. I was very proud of it and sent a copy to my parents in Greece. I thought they'd be proud of me too but when my dad read it he had a fit. "How can you write these things against the U.S.? They'll kick you out! Do you have any idea what you're doing? You'll get an FBI file!"
My dad didn't know about freedom of speech, he never had any. So he grew up with fear, as I grew up with fear. And here I am in this country and I'm not afraid. I write my weird opinions and thousands of people see them and I'm not afraid. The ones of you who have been born and raised in the U.S. may take this lack of fear for granted, I don't know. I think some of you do because I see calls for people to be banned or deleted from blogs - us, the ones who are supposed to keep the media on their toes. The American constitution gives us the most precious gift in the world - free speech - a gift we're trying so hard to export because we recognise its value. And in this country it's given to us on a silver platter, we don't even have to think about it. Except when it comes to blogs, I guess.
From my first day on bloggie, way before it was bloggie, when we were still LGF Watch Watch (and so self-important we were ;-) one thing I insisted on was we wouldn't ban anyone. I had to fight my ex-teammates on this and I had to do it every day. Actually, here was my philosophy, a little excerpt from our first team meeting:
Do we really want people to discover us? Yes. What if they don't like us? They'll love us. What if we don't like them? We still gotta be nice to them. Can we kick them out? No. Why? 'Cause we want them to stay and argue with us and come back and argue some more. Why? 'Cause we're strange people. But can we ban them? No. Can we delete them at least? No. But why? Because zorkmidden is your webmaster and you're her webslaves.
Okay, I've changed my mind about that a little: I really don't care if people discover us.
Anyway, what does this mean? It means we get people like "panzer faust" coming to inform us of what inferior beings we are. It means we get Iranian people who argue on some old thread about things I don't even understand and are threatening to sue each other. It means we talk about cheese in the middle of a religious discussion. It means we have funny people saying funny things and strange people saying strange things. It means we have people who love us and people who hate us and people who are indifferent. It means take a mix of all of the above, and throw in a few extras for good measure. You know what bloggie feels like to me? Like my mom's kitchen on a holiday, when all my weird Greek and Italian relatives come over. Not my kitchen, that's an empty room but my mom's kitchen is where all the arguments and all the good things happen.
But I digress. This post is about not being afraid not about my mother's kitchen even though there, like bloggie, is where I felt free to say anything. I certainly couldn't say it out in the street because the neighbours may be informers or someone might overhear or a thousand other possibilities. And there was no law in Greece to guarantee me that I could say "The Greek Prime Minister is stupid" and not go to jail.
So in case you haven't guessed, I'm a firm believer in freedom of speech. Which means you can say pretty much anything you want but please no racial epithets and keep insults to a minimum if possible; mama reads bloggie and if she sees you being mean to each other you'll all be in big trouble. My mama yelling at you is not a pleasant experience, ask evariste.
Anyway, about free speech: people have been doing just that. They come to bloggie and say their opinion and we don't delete it. Sometimes we even make a guest author post of it which makes some people really-really mad. And we write posts that people don't like, I remember when what's-his-name took us off his bookmarks, I'm still heartbroken about that. But I'll get over it with time, I'm sure.
You know what else hurts me a little? That by accepting this gift that this country has given me and by cherishing it and protecting it, I've become the enemy.
So be it. I'll get over that as well.
So no matter how irritating some of you may find HTW, or point of order or any other person that some LGFer considers a nemesis, we're not banning them and we're not muzzling them. It's their opinion and they have a right to say it. Just like you have a right to come tell them you think they're wrong. They came here to a possibly hostile audience. They could just as well spend their time talking to like-minded people on a million other blogs - but they're not preaching to their choir, they're here to take whatever you can dish out.
Freedom is a good thing, so quit being crybabies about speech you don't like and act like the fearless, free people that you are. (I'm pretty sure our regular readers understand this about us by now but I just had to get it out ;-)