I had an interesting conversation last night. Wendy Reaves Bemenderfer made a somewhat animated comment about getting in a man's face in public, breathing fire, because she didn't approve of that man's diction. Then decided to brag about it on Facebook. She informed us that she has never been more angry.
Perhaps she is more angry now?
I share this conversation not only because I think it's an interesting look into the heart of a value system that can explain so much in our larger society, but also because a simple conversation that should have been long forgotten by now, has become a contest of free speech. On one side is a woman, Wendy Reaves Bemenderfer, who will get three inches into your face in the public sphere if you use a word she doesn't permit you to use, and will attempt to have you and your speech removed from the public sphere if you do not conform.
When I made the comments above, the self described fire breather defriended me. That is a fine response. Nobody has a duty to provide a platform for others to disagree with them or to criticize them. People may construct whatever bubble they wish to live in. But I felt it was an interesting conversation on parenting and the public sphere, so I brought up the topic on my own private Facebook page. Not wanting Wendy Reaves to feel like she couldn't join in the conversation or defend herself, I made the thread public and sent her the link in case she wanted to join in. She made it clear she was not interested in joining in, so I made the thread private once again.
A long conversation started after I invited several mothers to offer their thoughts. Some supported Wendy, while others did not. It was a worthwhile thread about parenting and civic duty in the public sphere. It was a valuable discussion with differing viewpoints. Or as one of my peers described the conversation:
The post generated nearly 100 thought- provoking comments from many different people, some on her side, some on his. It made everyone involved think about the issue at hand and discuss it in detail.This morning, however, I was informed that:
But it's never really about a particular magically bad word. It's about wanting to control your neighbors.
For some, differing viewpoints cannot be allowed. It's okay for them to get "three inches from [your] face telling [you] what [they think]." But it's not okay for you to tell them what you think, even when far from their physical space. We are all equal, just some are more equal than others.
So an anonymous individual made unspecified allegations about me to Facebook. I was never told who the individual was that made the claim, or the nature of the allegations other than the charge that I had violated "community standards."
Yet another company sides with an individual who wishes to control others in the public sphere, and to censor speech they personally do not like. We see the dangerous fruits of these un-American values throughout our society today, and I believe conversation and debate is vital to change that.
At any rate, for these efforts, the anonymous individual has earned a blog post. Perhaps they will try to have this post censored, too. Either way, the contest of free speech will continue!