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Exercise your freedom of speech

Not long ago, I cobbled together something about things I don’t like. Whether it was the list of my dislikes or something else, two buddies advised me to ditch the piece.

Having taken their advice, I can’t even recall my list of things that offend my eyes or my sensibilities. Ah, but one aspect of that purged jewel has reared its ugly head again —at least as I see things.

My purpose in the discarded effort was to comment on a social corner we have painted ourselves into: namely that people simply avoid saying anything negative about anybody or anything. As a would-be linguist, I try to find words to go with ideas, and in this case the word is always in the news: diversity.

It has become unfashionable to note that that person is an idiot for piercing his nose and ears to hang jewelry. When I was in the Crescent City in August, I saw a young lady with eight metal objects pinned in her face. Recently I saw a boy with holes in his ear lobes larger than a pencil. And constantly, I encounter people who have made the bills of baseball caps somehow a back-of-the-neck cover.

But note that it is out of style, perhaps heretical to voice an opinion on anything that the mob has endorsed. And out of fear of offending anyone, our views get stifled inside us. For example, in the recent University of Mississippi faculty vote about removing the State flag, only one person voted against the motion. Knowing some of the people in that group, I’ll stake a wage that a number of them felt like the lone voter, but it was kept inside. In the student vote on the same issue, there were more nay votes but not enough to carry the issue.

One day this week in a major chain store in town, the lady who checked me out was wearing a nice button on her blouse that said “Jesus.” There were more words, but my old eyes couldn’t make them out. I told her how great I thought it was that she had it on.

She then told me about a couple of customers who had taken her to task about it.

Well, I’m proud of her and the business that allowed her the freedom to display her faith.

In another business, I spotted a little saying that I had given them last year. It said “Have a nice day unless you have other plans.”

I asked if they would put up another if I printed it for them — even though it contained a word that might stop many from shopping at their business. They said that word wouldn’t be out of place in their shop so I printed it. Now they display a little sheet that reminds anybody that: “Your life may be the only Bible some people read.”

I wonder if people in Germany in the 1930s became mum about expressing their opinion of the new —and ultimately malevolent — order in their country? Sadly, history has a grim way of repeating itself.

While we still retain the constitutional right to do so, exercise your freedom of speech!

T.J. Ray, a retired professor of English at the University of Mississippi, can be reached at tjmaryjo@bellsouth.net.