Certain positions or ideas that you hold can be perfectly reasonable and proper to you, but outrageous to other people. As society changes, the line of what those ideas and positions are changes. In our culture thinking certain thoughts, like "homosexual behavior is sinful" and "the Bible is the word of God" can reduce portions of the nation to frothing insane hatred.
Usually the reaction is immensely out of proportion to the statement, even if the statement isn't delivered in the most diplomatic sense. Saying you think its not racist to disagree with President Obama can get you death threats in the mail. I've had people threaten to beat me up for suggesting that perhaps President Bush wasn't the worst president ever.
A while back I wrote a bit called Closet Republicans about people living in heavy blue state areas who vote Republican but have to keep their mouths shut to keep jobs and avoid abuse and loss of friends. It still gets a lot of hits, but its more the word "closet" that gets the spam hits.
But it was a piece this year that was about losing internet acquaintances that has gotten the most attention. I wrote about a simple fact of life: businesses are in the job of making money, not making you feel good or affirming your self esteem.
Called Vive La Difference, it was all about why a business might be hesitant to hire a woman rather than a man, and why its not entirely unreasonable from a fiscal standpoint to pay a woman less than a man for a given job.
Think about this objectively and it will make sense to you. Say you have a company, and you have two prospective workers.
Now, assuming you are prohibited by law from simply never hiring Worker A, what will your response be? Worker A is not only going to represent a reduction in productivity, but probably will require you to hire a replacement while they're gone dealing with this condition.
- Worker A might, and is likely to, take on a condition wherein they will miss 6-12 months of work or more, and by law the employer must not only retain them as an employee, but pay them for the time they are gone (in many states).
- Worker B cannot suffer from this condition.
This simple concept made several women so mad at me they started spewing some of the most awful sort of hatred against me, and posting on any topic that came up how I was evil and held the most repugnant positions imaginable. I was a liar, I hated women, I loved abuse, I hate homosexuals, and so on.
So, that's unfortunate, and sort of saddening, but I never really knew them and they live thousands of miles away, so its not too great a loss. The people I fear for are the ones who have family members, sweethearts, and coworkers treat them this way.
Its true that the first amendment does not protect us from consequences and negative reactions to our speech. But punishing people to try to silence them is not right and the 1st amendment does protect our speech for a reason.
Trying to silence or make ideas go away that you don't like is not about freedom, its about control and tyranny. The best method, as has been proven through history and said by many wise men, is to face bad speech with more speech, not efforts to silence them.
But its hard to come up with good speech and easy to pick up the torch and scream.