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I would like to dedicate this column to Army Spc. Orlando Perez who was killed fighting for me in Baghdad, Iraq, on Feb. 24, 2008. Orlando – along with tens of thousands of other heroes – is the reason I, you and millions more around the world can call ourselves free. May we never forget the sacrifices so many have made on our behalf. Rest in peace, Orlando; your sacrifice will never be forgotten.

Over recent years, it seems the term “free speech” has become more of an oxymoron than an absolute in our society. Technically, as our Founding Fathers intended, we are all given the undeniable right to voice our thoughts and opinions freely without fear of scorn and/or ridicule derived from non-agreement. I supposedly have the same right to express myself as you do. In a perfect world, my rights should be no different from yours. I’m quite certain that given the current stage of the world’s social climate, however, anyone ascribing to the ridiculous notion that our world is perfect is kidding himself. Our “perfect” world was replaced many moons ago by the defective reality in which we are all forced to reside – and one of the most blatant areas to view the erosion of perfection is seen in the lack of ability many in this great country have to speak freely without fear of chastisement.

Over the past decades, media, in their infinite wisdom, have declared themselves judge, jury and executioner regarding what is acceptable and not so in the realm of exchanging ideas, thoughts and opinions. They also seem to be the ones who have created the “rule book” we all must follow – which over the years has gotten extremely complex with a tremendous array of double standards and finite logic regarding those to whom true freedom of speech actually applies.

There is without a doubt an unwritten but staunchly understood “pecking order” when considering who has the right to freely voice thought without the fear of public scorn and who must tread very lightly on certain obvious topics of socially sensitive subject matter. Media, along with a brainwashed segment of the American populace, grant asylum to different degrees according to what segment of society one belongs. The seemingly more oppressed an individual and that individual’s group is the better. Let’s face it, some have the ability to wage verbal holocaust and go virtually unscathed in the court of public opinion, while similar thoughts or opinions voiced by one whose existence does not grant them immunity will most likely be subjected to scorn and public rebuke from all sides until penance has supposedly been paid. Undoubtedly, the conservative, heterosexual, white male gets and most likely will continue to get the proverbial short end of the stick when it comes to speaking freely. Those who fall into this unfortunate category had better watch their backsides with both eyes when discussing any topic with a script of politically correct verbiage that must be followed.

According to most in media and some in the political arena, Chick-fil-A’s Dan Cathy did not follow the script outlined in the Manual of Political Correctness, Article 2, Subsection A5, regarding gay marriage. Dan Cathy had the galling nerve to assume that as an American he has the right to freely voice his opinion. What arrogance!

Now, the fact that a litany of opinions exists regarding a vast array of socially sensitive topics needs no elaboration. For the good of our nation and to insure that as a society we are always growing and evolving, this must remain an absolute. I fear, however, that absolute is being taken from us and replaced with a media-perpetuated system that is depriving Americans the ability to disagree, debate and evolve.

To disagree on the validity and morality of gay marriage should not spawn hatred of one American versus another. To speak what is in one’s heart should not provide fuel to stoke a fire of outrage simply because those fanning the flames choose to exploit their position at the podium to do so. Media have an obligation to report without the inclusion of bias, not to use their public forum to promote a social or political agenda when words are spoken they deem to be inappropriate and have come from someone to whom they have not granted asylum.

To comprehend why a group would band together at a certain level against an individual or group who does not share the same ideals is to understand basic human nature. To have media and politicos incite such sanctions, however, on the basis of differing opinions, is quite another – and it is these type of consistent efforts that are eroding our first and perhaps most important freedom, one we should all enjoy as Americans.

“I disapprove of what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it.” (Voltaire)

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