Reid’s gaffe no reason to get upset

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid came under fire last week for comments he made about then-Sen. Barack Obama during the 2008 presidential election.

Game Change, a behind-the-scenes look at the election that gave America its first black president, quoted Reid as saying that Obama’s “light-skinned” complexion would serve him well in the election and that Obama had the ability to speak “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.”

The remarks caused many prominent Republican Party members to demand Reid’s resignation from his post as majority leader.

Those calling for Reid to step down cited a double standard in the way Reid has been treated and the manner in which then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott’s supposedly racist comments that cost him his post in 2002 were received.

Lott, celebrating the 100th birthday of Sen. Strom Thurmond, said, “When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We’re proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn’t have had all these problems over the years, either.”

Those familiar with history know that Thurmond ran for president on a platform of racial segregation.

That being the case, Lott was chastised for his remarks to the point where he ultimately withdrew from the majority leader position.

But here’s the rub: neither man should have been asked to resign.

Anyone calling for Harry Reid’s head on a platter needs to calm down and take a close look at the First Amendment of the Constitution.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

What that statement means is that Congress — the governing body of the U.S. — doesn’t have the power to suppress what a person says.

Part of living in a free society such as ours is the fact that as long as what a person says does not directly harm or defame someone else, then that person has the freedom to say whatever he or she likes.

Freedom of speech is of such importance to civilized nations that our Founding Fathers made sure it was the first thing written into the Bill of Rights.

But the road to free speech is a two-way street. If someone is allowed to say watermelon is the best flavor of Jolly Rancher, then others must be allowed to argue for sour apple’s superiority.

For every Martin Luther King Jr. who uses free speech to inspire people and bring them together, there’s a David Duke that uses words to divide the masses with hatred.

Freedom of speech protects everyone — even the idiots.

Not agreeing with a person’s comments or ideology is not grounds for calling for them to be silenced.

Attempting to force an elected official of any political inclination to resign because of what some see as a poor choice of words infringes on everyone’s right to free speech.

Anyone, including Reid or Lott, who wants to say something that makes them look like a bigot should and does have the right to do so.

That’s why freedom of speech kicks … butt.

Alan Dennis is a communication senior and may be reached at [email protected]

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