Vail Daily column: Free speech on any street | VailDaily.com
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Vail Daily column: Free speech on any street

Imagine a former Marine, born and raised here in Happy Valley, who takes it upon himself, via Facebook, to promote an anti-Muslim rally and hold a “Prophet Muhammad cartoon drawing contest” within days “somewhere on Bridge Street.”

The picture he uses to promote the protest is of him proudly wearing a T-shirt with the phrase, let’s see, how do I put this euphemistically … “Fudge” Islam, yep, that’s the ticket.

“Fudge him,” would be my first thought.



How dare he promote his ignorance and hate mongering in our beloved tourist destination? Screw his First Amendment right to be an idiot. Think of the damage to the community, our reputation to the world, our hotels and pot shops!

But to be perfectly honest, I would support him.



Now, let’s come back to reality and look at the former Marine who organized an anti-Muslim rally outside the Islamic Community Center of Phoenix last Friday.

After promoting his rally a few days in advance on Facebook, Jon Ritzheimer claims he now has to sell his house and take his family into hiding.

Sounds to me like he did not consider the consequences of his actions.



“This is proof tyranny is in America,” he says after receiving death threats within hours of his post. “They’re calling for lone wolves to behead me. That’s terrorism right here in America.”

Why yes, Jon, yes it most certainly is, yet the only terror I see at the moment comes from your mirror.

With over 1,300 people pledging to attend, around 300 actually showed, and the Phoenix police were in full force.

“This is not about me,” Ritzheimer said just before spelling his name out for the media. “This is about freedom of speech across America.” He also encouraged attendees to come armed “just in case our First Amendment comes under much anticipated attack.”

So of course many of the protesters were armed, as it’s only logical to do so when you beg someone to fight, but since when do you need guns and offensive pictures of someone else’s pretend deity to “protest”?

Dozens of anti-anti-Muslim protesters protested as well, with the two sides using megaphones to yell expletives at one another.

Sigh.

Freedom of speech is a two-way street, meaning when you find something offensive, you have the right to retort with something just as offensive. I believe this is known as the Pee-wee Herman “I know you are but what am I?” doctrine.

This whole thing was pretty much a white supremacists rally and another episode of “Skinhead Biker Thugs” wanting to prove whose “junk” is bigger.

But to be perfectly honest, I would support them.

Regardless of their intent or desires for a particular outcome, I don’t want to live under Sharia Law any more than I want to live in a Christian theocracy, and our Constitution must be upheld under a secular government covering everyone equally under the law.

I do not berate the man one iota for exercising his First Amendment right to freedom of speech, but never forget supporting someone’s right to free speech is not the same as supporting the speech they freely spew.

Even if it’s shouted on Bridge Street.

Richard Carnes, of Edwards, writes weekly. He can be reached at poor@vail.net.


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