Protecting others means protecting me

Jaycee Fitzgerald, Features Editor

Sitting in U.S. history, the class was having an open discussion about political issues involving rights today. My teacher said something that really made me think. He said, “Even if you don’t support someone’s viewpoints and beliefs, you should still protect their rights to say those beliefs, because who says if you don’t that your rights to do so won’t be taken away next?” I think that the concept of protecting others rights, even if you don’t agree, is very important, especially because of disputes about the rights people should and shouldn’t have today.

One right I feel is specifically being called into question for some people is the right to peaceably assemble. An example of this right being called into question is what happened in Charlottesville last month. The rally was planned in advance for Ku Klux Klan members to rally. In total, around 50 members and supporters showed up, then they were met with around 1000 counter protesters, according to The New York Times. The rally became violent with the counter protesters throwing objects at the Klan members and supporters, and they refused to let them return to their cars. Then a KKK member retaliated by driving his car into the crowd, killing one person and injuring others. Across social media, I have seen many people claim that this incident would have never happened if groups like the KKK were not allowed to rally. Now I in no way whatsoever, support the viewpoints of the KKK. I do believe that they should still be allowed to peaceably assemble, as long as it is peacefully.

Another example that involves the right of freedom of speech is the case of Fred Phelps, the founder of the Westboro Baptist Church. The church is infamous for holding up signs that say, “God Hates Fags” and “Thank God for Dead Soldiers.” Phelps went to court over these signs, because some people wanted the church to stop saying these things. Phelps won the civil case, as not allowing his church to say these things would infringe on their freedom of speech rights, and I agree with this decision. However, more and more people are beginning to disagree with this. In a poll by the Pew Research Center, 40 percent of people aged 18-34 years old, believe that speech that offends others should be censored. I think the people who believe speech should be censored don’t realize that taking away others rights to freely speak, can lead to their rights being taken away too.

Now, why would I want people or groups that I strongly dislike to be able to meet and assemble in public and spread messages I disagree with? Well, because I want to be able to do the same. I want to be able to express my opinion and not have it filtered because of what others think. I want to be able to stand up for what I believe in. I want to protect the rights of others to be able to do the same. So, just like my teacher said to us in class, if we do not protect the rights of other groups, then who is to say next our rights won’t be taken away too?