Ladies and gentlemen of the press…
We have recently seen unacceptable events happening in Charlottesville Virginia. Many people have been injured, and at least one has been killed. This is never to be tolerated in the United States.
In that regard, many have been demanding that I take a stand against the virulent positions of the groups at the heart of the events. As the President of a free people living in a free nation, I cannot do that. I represent the government; I represent the powers that enforce freedom and liberty, and for those powers to promote certain positions and deny others positions would be to impose a tyranny of the exact same sort, however well-intended, that we rebelled against in the first place 240 or so years ago.
Instead, we are guided in these circumstances by the First Amendment, which protects our citizens’ right of Free Speech. The First Amendment right of Free Speech has two aspects. The first aspect is for the government to protect the right of a citizen − any citizen − to say what he wants to or about the government, or its agents, to the government’s face or behind its back, without the government being able to do a single thing about it. The citizen may bear no repercussions for bawling out his government, however rudely and intemperately he does so. This holds true in letters to his Congressman or Senator, while standing in line at the DMV, while discussing local policy at a city council or a school board meeting, or generalized political disaffection of the type so often leveled at me.
The second aspect of government duty regarding the First Amendment right of Free Speech is that it permits the citizen − any citizen − to say what he wants to or about any other citizen or group of citizens, without the government being permitted to take sides. The very moment the government takes sides over the matter of rude, intemperate or disgusting speech, and chooses which speech is to be acceptable and which not, is the moment the government imposes censorship of political ideas. The government of a free people may never do that.
This second aspect of Free Speech permits, indeed protects¸ and demands the government act to protect, the right of stupid people to make stupid statements about others, the right of bigoted people to make bigoted statements about other people, the right of assholes to make assholish statements about other people. If those who are being targeted by stupid, bigoted or assholish statements wish to stand on the other side of the street and scream insults back, that is their collateral right under the First Amendment right of Free Speech. The government will protect both sides’ right to scream themselves hoarse.
The only duty the government has in this situation is to ensure that anything beyond speech is dealt with properly. The moment a stupid, bigot asshole uses one of the sticks holding his protest sign to whack someone he doesn’t like over the head, that is the first moment the government has an obligation. That obligation is to arrest him for assault. The very moment a counter-protester uses the stick holding his counter-protest sign to whack a stupid, bigot asshole over the head for being a stupid, bigot asshole, that is the moment the government has an obligation. The obligation is to arrest him for assault.
You may say what you like in the United States; you may simply not do anything beyond that.
With specific reference to the circumstances in Charlottesville, it is not the prerogative of the government to decide which political ideas are proper and appropriate to entertain for free citizens of this free nation; that is the duty and the responsibility of you, you people, of this free nation. If the ideas you see being discussed are abhorrent or appalling, then it is up to you, the people, to defeat those ideas with better ideas, and do so peacefully.
The government’s obligation is merely to stop those who have gone beyond the verbal expression of ideas. In that regard, the person who used his vehicle as a weapon against those whose ideas were different from his own, who killed one person and injured several others, has been arrested and charged. That is the only duty a government of a free people has in the clash of ideas among its free citizens.
If you don’t like the ideas being discussed, yelled, or screamed in Charlottesville, then it is your duty to defeat them with better ideas. Do not demand that the government do your job for you. That is cowardly and childish.
The government has done what is required of it. The people have not.
Thank you. I will take no questions and the matter is closed.1 comment