Speech.

001There’s a taco place near where I work. Instead of going to the counter and telling the cashier what you want to order they have order forms along one wall. You take a form and a pencil, fill in what you want, and hand it over. And, as you can see, a lot of people use the pencils to add their own creative notes to the wall.

Most people just seem to write their names. It’s the old “so-and-so was here” that seems to be as old as graffiti itself. That’s no joke. There really is graffiti carved into historic monuments in ancient Greek and other old languages that basically just says, “Euclides was here”. People felt compelled to leave their mark. They still feel compelled to leave their mark. A few other messages say things like “Happy birthday Jim” or “Hi Karen!” The taco place is popular so almost every time I’ve gone there for lunch it’s been packed. I’ve had a lot of time to stand there and read the messages people have left on the wall. And most of the time I’m amazed that even though these messages are anonymous, even though people could write whatever they want, nobody seems inclined to write anything cruel or derogatory.

I feel guilty that I’ve felt so cynical, especially since recent events have made me so happy. Today is Independence Day in the United States, and I feel that recent events have moved us a little closer to the dream of universal equal rights in this country. People whose right to marry, or to have their marriage recognized, was limited by where they lived, can now marry, and enjoy the full legal protections of marriage, anywhere in the United States.

These scribbles on the wall represent people exercising their freedom of speech, which I think of as the most basic freedom. All other freedoms stem from freedom of speech because without it there’s no way to ask for or even articulate the other freedoms we crave. We may have gotten a little closer to universal equality, but to those who are still marginalized, still afraid, still fighting for full rights: speak on.

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