Chris Graham: Freedom of speech … just watch what you say

We American types are all over the place when it comes to this freedom of speech stuff.

On the one hand, there’s the president of Chick-fil-A, Dan Cathy, who has every right to say what he thinks on the issue of gay marriage.

Not everybody agrees that he has that right, though. Nor does everyone agree that I have the right to say that I don’t want to eat there as long as Cathy’s company gives money to groups that actively work to deny equal rights to gays and lesbians.

And then there’s the case of comedian Jeffrey Ross, who showed up at a taping of a Comedy Central roast of Roseanne Barr dressed as late Penn State football coach Joe Paterno and cracked a joke that referenced the recent shootings at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo.

Ross has been criticized roundly for the joke, though I haven’t heard anything negative about the JoePa getup yet.

(He should’ve gone as Jerry Sandusky. Then we’d all be talking.)

We all need to lighten up, me included.

In the case of Ross, he’s a comedian, and the offensive line was delivered at a roast, which, if you’ve ever watched one of those things, they’re hilarious, but also quite rife with blue language and jokes and concepts in general that many would find distasteful.

If you haven’t seen one, and don’t want to, no problem. The average cable and satellite TV household has just short of a million channels full of other stuff to watch.

It’s doubtful that many of you have even heard of Jeffrey Ross. Which is unfortunate, because he’s one of the top comics out there right now. But that’s neither here nor there.

As for Chick-fil-A, I’m sure they’ll do OK without people like me going to eat there. I hadn’t even heard of the company as of, say, four or five years ago, so losing me as a customer isn’t going to affect the stock prices in any kind of appreciable way.

I’m all for Dan Cathy saying what he wants to say and giving money to whatever causes he wants to give money to. My take on the controversy that erupted over his comments wasn’t that he should be silenced, but rather that I’ll just take my interest in eating fast-food chicken somewhere else.

The idea that I should be made to feel guilty for voicing this idea publicly is troubling to me. Just as it troubles me that some might feel that Dan Cathy should muzzle himself on the same issue, or that a comedian like Jeff Ross should consider topics like Penn State football and the Aurora shootings off-limits.

The line from Oliver Wendell Holmes that we all remember from high-school civics class about the limit on free speech being that none of us should feel protection under the Constitution to shout fire in a crowded theater is instructive.

Neither Ross, Cathy or myself are guilty of anything near shouting fire in a crowded theater.

Maybe we’re the guys talking during the opening credits that you worry will keep it up throughout the movie, but that’s about as far as I’m willing to concede on that.

More at www.TheWorldAccordingToChrisGraham.com.


Augusta Health Kris McMackin CPA
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