There is a reason that freedom of speech is part of the First Amendment. If people are not able to voice their opinions and make their grievances heard, they are not free. Along with any freedom you are tethered with responsibility. With the freedom of speech you should have the obligation to show respect to those who have done no harm to you.
However, it rarely works that way. People are always imagining they are being slighted or hurt. Politicians say something you don’t like or follow a corrosive ideology, so you personally hate them, though you’ve never actually met them. A cartoonist draws a picture that offends you, so you think they are evil or immoral. The latter has led to quite a bit of outrage in some quarters.
Ben Garrison, an avowed Trump supporter, created a cartoon comparing the current First Lady with Melania Trump. Now there have been other articles written which make better arguments as to why this is just awful so I won’t go into it. In comparison to other first ladies we’ve had over the country’s history Michelle Obama is certainly one of the best we’ve ever had, so I can understand the disgust many have felt.
Now comes the part where I expect the tar and feathering to begin. Mr. Garrison has written a response to his critics, which is fairly standard fare from the right wing fringe of this country. God help me, but I hate to defend a man who puts out trash like this, but he does have a right to do so. And we have every right to mock and call him out for it.
Look at the last line of his letter in response, “… if you don’t like it, you can go back to your safe spaces.” He assumes that everyone complaining about his work is a frightened little child who can’t bear to look at his work. If when you complain to him you act like children, then you just reinforce his opinion. You must act like adults. Don’t send stupid stuff that threatens his life or is just filled with vitriolic hate.
There are a couple of ways to respond to these sorts of trolls. The first should be simple, but for many people seems to be particularly difficult. Stop being offended and complaining about what people say and print, they are just words or pictures. If what they say or do is truly cancerous and a detriment to society then you should take action. Stand up to them. Go out in numbers and march. Gather together wherever they are going to be and rally against them and what they stand for.
The first is often better if it is some little slime who just paints pictures. Forget about someone like Ben Garrison. This man is the equivalent of the schoolyard bully. He swims in a small pond and has little influence beyond it. He might terrify a few with his words or pictures, but you are an adult. Realize that you aren’t going to like everything you see or hear. That’s life. You aren’t children anymore. You don’t have to watch the television show if you don’t want to.
Use your intelligence and understand whether or not the cause or the person you want to protest against is a big enough threat to put significant time and resources into, and not just your own. Should you involve friends, neighbors, and strangers into the cause? Or maybe it is something you can solve in your own family by just having a discussion with yourself and your children by telling them the truth about the world. I don’t want to tell you what to do with your time and energy, but try not to let yourself be tricked by an obvious troll who delights in your discomfort.
The second option to take action against someone is important too, but don’t use it for every little shit who comes along, or it loses its meaning and importance. There are people who are actual threats to our country, to our people, and maybe to the world. Listen to what they say. They must be allowed to speak so that people can understand how toxic and horrific they are. That is the person you must rally against.
Act against the Fascist or others who claims to want to bring about a greater country by making it bar outsiders and building a stronger military without saying for what purpose. The men who want to control all the media, rewrite the laws in their favor while disenfranchising everyone else, and who lie constantly to the people for their personal advantage until the majority begin to believe it. Use their words against them and be ready to use action to back it up.
Image via Ben Garrison