Free The Speech!

That’s not how this works.  That’s not how any of this works.

There’s been a lot of pearl-clutching and panty twisting lately on the subject of free speech, and whether the concept is dead, dying, or on life support.

This guarantee was seen as so important, so foundational, it is the very first freedom promised by the US Constitution.  It, along with freedom of religion, freedom of the press, and the right to peacefully gather make up the first amendment of the US constitution.  The founding fathers, fresh from colonialism, revolt, occupation, and war decided these rights should be made paramount.  The very first of the bill of rights.

I know, Gentle Reader, that you are a scholar in the way of civics and have a full understanding of the right to free speech and how it applies to US citizens and implications thereof.

But sadly, not everyone does.

And even though the majority of us are under a stay at home order, unless you literally live under a rock, you will hear of or read of someone decrying the “assault” on free speech.  They are convinced and try to convince you that unless we as a nation vote for a certain party, or watch a certain channel, or listen to a specific talking head, we are surely headed for calamity.

Much of the time, though, these Constitutional Cassandras have it all wrong.

If a CEO loses it on Twitter and uses those 280 characters to vent his hateful spleen and disparage women, or a has-been comedian tells a racist joke, or a sportscaster lectures followers according to the beliefs of his very judgy religion, they are gonna catch it.

They’re going to hear about it from everybody with a keyboard.  They or their product might be boycotted by the offended.  There’s a really good chance they’re going to be unemployed by dinnertime the next day.

But what they’re not going to be, is imprisoned by the government.

Because they didn’t break the law.

What about the blow-back from employers and the rest of the offended?

Those are the very legal consequences of private companies and the reaction of private citizens.  And all of these are themselves a type of free speech.

Every person in this country can say the most offensive, hateful, and downright jerky thing they care to say—free of criminal repercussions.  That, my friends, is how free speech works. 

…and can we talk about that profile pic? How old is that thing?

Another scenario: after eons of suffering oppression, suppression, and/or repression, a marginalized group and their supporters have had enough and protest.

They march.  They chant.  They carry signs, posters, and banners.  They make lots of noise in order to get lots of attention, with the intent to change the status quo.  They challenge authority and speak their truth to power—peacefully.

They are not anarchists, or thugs, or vandals.  They are citizens exercising their right to freedom of speech.  You might not agree with them, you might hate or fear them.  But they are not mobs breaking the law by just speaking out.

Each one of us hears or reads opinions we don’t like every day.  There are plenty of people with a website, microphone, or bully pulpit that I dearly wish would sit down and shut up, forever.

But despite how deluded or evil that I think they may be, they’re not breaking the law.  So, I turn the channel, or the page, or my attention, away.  That’s my right.

And the first amendment of the United States Constitution, one of the greatest documents in human history, gives them (and me) the right to sound as dumb as they (we) want.

I don’t try to be a jerk…

Thanks for your time.

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The Kid Goes Dark

Chain bridge between Buda and Pest, on Buda sideToday I bring you a story that almost didn’t make it to print. I am The Kid, the offspring of your normal columnist, and recently back from vacation in Budapest and Vienna.

As I set about planning my trip, as I chose points of interest, I slowly realized that I was creating a fairly creepy vacation. As you’ll see.

Entrance to Murder Exhibit

The entrance to the Murder Exhibit

On my first full day in Budapest, I visited their recently opened Murder exhibit. The point of the exhibit was to understand what makes a murderer, but in my experience, it was less successful in that, and more successful in giving guests the willies. Tableaus were set up with bedrooms of John Wayne Gacy and Elizabeth Bathory, the inside of Jeffery Dahmer’s fridge, Ed Gein’s kitchen, and more that I won’t spoil. One walks through with a headset, so they were able to take advantage of surround sound. Not for the faint of heart, but very much worth the hour or so spent for true crime fans.

Next, we’ll head to Vienna for a couple of stops.


The Narrenturm.

Vienna is only a 2-hour train ride away, so I decided to spend one of my days checking out the city. My first destination was the Narrenturm, or “Fool’s Tower”. This is one of the world’s oldest asylums and has since been turned in to Federal Pathologic-Anatomical Museum Vienna. It is similar to the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia, but all the signs are in German. I, dear reader, do not speak German. It was a heck of a time going from room to room, attempting to puzzle what each exhibit was. Some are obvious, but after a while, you start to forget what a normal lung really looks like.

Maria Theresa's Crypt

The crypt of Empress Maria Thersa.

I next headed over to the Hapsburg Imperial Crypt. This is a Capuchin monastery, and current resting place of all the Hapsburg line. One member was laid to rest here as recently as 2011. I learned more about Austrian history in the hour and a half tour as I have in all the history classes I have ever taken. It was fascinating to hear all the steps taken by the members of the Hapsburg imperial family that all ended with them in the same crypt and just seeing how design choices had evolved over the hundreds of years, with the first burial taking place in 1619. I’ll say this, Maria Theresa wasn’t fooling around with her 9-ton metal sarcophagus.

The Labyrinth of Buda Castle

The labyrinth.

Back to Budapest now, with the story of how I almost didn’t make it back home. Budapest is split into three parts, Buda, Pest, and Obuda. Buda is more of the historical district. This is where The Royal Palace is located, as well as the Labyrinth of Buda Castle. Running under Buda are tunnels and caves created mostly through natural hot springs. People would use these tunnels for smuggling, parties, and in the case of Vlad Dracula, or Vlad Tepes, a 14-year imprisonment.These days, curious tourists are welcome to tour the labyrinth, with only occasional arrow signs on the walls as guides. Not long after entering, you are greeted with a fork in the road. One side leads towards more of the dimly lit labyrinth. The other heads towards the Maze of Darkness. This section is totally unlit, and your only guide is the rope attached to the wall. By the end, the rope was my best friend. I feel like the rope really understood me.

Thankfully, I did eventually escape. Though I did pass the same snake statue about 4 times. I wonder how Snake Friend is doing. I hope he’s well.Snake sculpture in labirynthThanks for your time.

The History Tattler

This week, cats and kittens, have I got some catnip for you.

Dateline: 399BC, ATHENS.

A little birdy has whispered that a philosopher may be in a bit of a jam.  There is a group of dikasts (male, citizen jurors) being put together to decide whether said philosopher might be guilty of impiety, and serious corruption of our youth.

It don’t look good, Kittens.  My sources tell me that he may end up at Bar Hemlock for the house cocktail.

Dateline: March 1, 44AD, ROME. What traveler from Egypt, and her relationship with a most royal of royals has thrown our Burg into a tizzy?  While this personage’s wife is above reproach, his girlfriend is not.

I’ve also been told that there may be a bambino on the way.  More than one Roman has seen what they assure me is a very royal baby bump; and that birth will definitely be a “Caesarian”.

Dateline: 522, CONSTANTINOPLE. 

Those in the know are all atwitter.  It seems that an “Actress” has caught the eye of a regal personage.  This “lady” has encouraged a very Just someone to contemplate the need for change in marriage laws of men of senatorial rank or *ahem* higher.

But maybe it’s not for little old me to speculate—it’s all very “Byzantine”…

Dateline: 1492, VATICAN CITY.One of the men rumored to be the next pontiff is known to have at least three children, and possibly dozens more.  No woman is safe around the men of this family, and if his daughter invites you to a meal, make sure you brownbag it, or you may not survive to dessert.

Dateline: 1528, LONDON.

Is there trouble in a very royal paradise?  Tongues are wagging about a trim little spider that may be luring an exceptionally well-placed fly.  Despite the fact that this fly, and his Spanish fly bride have enjoyed wedded bliss for close to twenty years.Many at court have speculated that a change in religion might be in the offing.  Some have said that this slip of a girl has so intrigued the older, but still vital gentleman that he is now worshipping at the church of lust, frustration, and wishful thinking.

Dateline: 1718, JAMAICA.

There’s more than tankards of rum bellying up to bars these days.  There are whispers up and down Kingston Harbour that one of our intrepid privateers who happens to fancy wearing brightly colored cotton fabrics has two very surprising and unusual members on his crew.We’re assured that these mates are as fearsome and bloodthirsty as the men…I mean the rest of the crew.

But, it may behoove us all to become familiar with the term, “Pleading one’s belly.”

Dateline: August 1791, PARIS.

A little birdy, perched precariously in the obscenely elaborate wig of an Austrian woman, has whispered in my ear.And if you have a chateau, have lived in a chateau, or been a guest in a chateau, it would be wise to put down that cake, and get out of town, lest you become familiar with an invention by a certain Dr. Guillotine.

Dateline: June 15, 1803, WASHINGTON DC.

There are rumblings in the capital that a very, very, highly placed personage is interested in an unbelievably large real estate deal.Related imageWe’ve been told that the buyer, a published author and macaroni and cheese aficionado is in talks with French bigwigs to make a “purchase” that may well change the very nature of how we see ourselves.

*And a reminder, cats and kittens, if you have any juicy tips for me, send a note on the Pony Express addressed: “History Tattler”.

Thanks for your time.