To grow—to mature—
as a person,
as an organization (like a church),
even as a country—
it is critical to know—to deep down know—
that our strengths all have a shadow side to them.
Embedded within each strength lies a potential and corresponding weakness.
The greater the strength, the greater the potential weakness.
(and not just because of all the political rhetoric bandied about these days):
free speech is one of the great freedoms of our heritage as a country.
It’s one of our fundamental strengths, to be treasured and protected.
No argument about that, right?
Too often, though, it’s a strength we the people
allow to be made manifest in one of its shadow forms—
allow to be made manifest as weakness—in cheap speech—
in valueless speech—
As if the guarantee of free speech somehow guaranteed
respect for each speech of any and all who are free to speak.
And nothing could be further from the truth.
That someone is free to speak
does not make what they say worth listening to.
It is, in fact, most respectful of free speech
not to indulge cheap speech—
certainly not to value valueless speech.
But not to ignore it either—
to laugh at it.
One of the great gifts Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert offer us
(while they are typically dismissed by many
who claim to report or respect the news, as mere comedians)
is precisely laughter—in truth, exactly what we most need—
not just as the most appropriate response
but also as the most accurate evaluation
of what too many simply report as having been said—
thereby implicitly justifying or validating what was said.
More importantly (for me),
these comedians help me, occasionally, find—
beyond the derisive, angry, mocking laughter
that is an easy reaction to cheap speech—
that is typically my initial and default reaction
(and one that actually sustains the power of the ludicrous),
these comedians occasionally help me find
the true laughter of genuine amusement.
Free speech costs too much
to indulge cheap speech,
and cheap speech isn’t worth
more than a good laugh—
which makes of it something more than it’s worth!