By Paresha Khan, Columnist
The attention to free speech on college campuses is rising in public opinion and media.
At Mason, pro-life senior citizens and non-Mason students gather around the clock tower and plaster bloody fetus posters in North Plaza. People also preach about religion by handing out pamphlets and flyers. Although both of these demonstrations can be uncomfortable for many students, myself included, the citizens are within their constitutional rights.
Emeritus Don Boileau, Ph.D., and Igor Stojanov, a Macedonian journalist here on a fellowship, expressed how our university receives a lot of the credit for our freedoms and other thoughts on freedom of speech at the “Right, Wrong or Different?” event hosted by the LEAD Office and The Office of International Programs and Services.
Boileau reminded the audience that Americans are able to exercise their fundamental rights because of one of our founding fathers, George Mason. His refusal to sign the Constitution without a Bill of Rights is a moment in history that further enhanced American democracy. We are always encouraged to share our opinions and make our voices heard, even if it makes us or other people feel uneasy.
I was intrigued by the perspective of Stojanov, who began his speech by asking the audience a very important and contemplative question: “When a country implements certain rules, who decides and who listens?”
Both Boileau and Stojanov believe that hate speech should not be tolerated. Vocal racism, threats or even personal insults serve as weapons that can hurt a person emotionally. The freedoms that George Mason fought for encourages individuals to stand up for what they believe in. Stojanov was taken aback by how media in the U.S. makes fun of people’s outward looks openly, especially President Donald Trump.
When a person exercises his/her freedoms to an extreme, he/she is essentially jeopardizing another person’s freedom. Everyone has a right to express opinions but I believe that the line of integrity is being crossed when people are verbally harassed by others.
Current politics divide the nation because people with opposing political agendas refuse to come together and sort out their differences. During George Mason’s time, face-to-face communication was the only method to address issues. He had no idea that the Internet would consume America or that hurtful actions such as cyberbullying would take place. Yet, George Mason still valued the right of our essential freedoms. This is completely mind-blowing to me because even though he had no idea of the complications that would arise in the 21st century, George Mason’s urge for a Bill of Rights is something that Americans need to grasp onto every single day.
George Mason left behind a legacy that carries generations forward in America. Each of the freedoms listed in the Constitution represent the basic natural rights that all Americans deserve. Without his daring move of standing by the Articles of Confederation until our rights were added into the Constitution, citizens today would not be able to walk in the pathway of freedom that George Mason created.
Photo Courtesy of Mason Creative Services