Wednesday, December 6, 2017
Do We Take Our American Free Speech for Granted?
A Celebration Tempered by Concern
Already obvious in countries like Russia, North Korea and Syria, recent reports of diminishing free speech rights in Hong Kong particularly capture my attention. I will be teaching psychoanalytic psychotherapy to students in Hong Kong this March; I was also there last January.
Are my colleagues and friends there losing their freedoms?
Just this last October, China introduced an iteration of a National Anthem Law which previously called for jail sentences of up to 15 days for “disrespecting” the national anthem. The new amendment–related to the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong during 2014–is gradually making its way into Hong Kong’s statutes. It would extend punishments to up to three-years in prison.
Furthermore, Beijing promised Hong Kong citizens the freedom to elect their local government. Despite the promise, the citizens of Hong Kong were only allowed to vote for candidates selected by Beijing–hardly a true democratic freedom. The umbrella revolution of 2014 erupted because a. Beijing had broken that promise, and; b. It planned to introduce its “national education” curriculum–a less democratic, state-wide educational program emphasizing Confucian values like respecting authority.
In other words, students in Hong Kong would learn to consider phrases like “Question Authority” taboo.
In the final analysis, we Americans, even when angered by accusations being equated with due process or by Trump’s tweeting abject lies, might temper our outrage with appreciation.
With all of our flaws–and oh so many exist–we deserve to feel prideful of our country’s founders’ emphasis of, and insistence upon, our first amendment rights.
We enjoy among the best preserved and flourishing rights of free speech in the globe. Citizens of Venezuela, Turkey, Russia and other oppressive regimes fear discussing opinions openly; writing about them proves literally dangerous. Those governments have arrested hundreds of journalists, executing some of them.
You may hate some of the opinions expressed by your fellow citizens.
But at least we enjoy the right to express them.
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Alan Karbelnig, PhD, ABPP