If you take a peek at the ever expanding blogroll to your right, you will find a link to a blog called "Comments For Dispatches From TJICistan". I found this blog via my normal, everyday blog stalking and reading a month or two ago and decided to follow his postings as he is quirky with a diverse body of interests similar to my own. You may have come across a news article about a blogger in Massachusetts who had his firearms license temporarily suspended after authoring a post in the wake of the Tucson shooting. TJIC is that guy.
Setting aside for the time being the issue of a state requiring a person to have a firearms license to possess firearms (we might get around to that, we might not), I want to discuss the issue that led to this person arousing the ire of the authorities. Simply put, it boils down to the right to free speech.
Shortly after the Tucson shooting, TJIC posting something to the effect of "1 down, 534 to go" apparently in reference to the remaining members of Congress who were not involved in the Tucson shooting incident. The authorities in TJIC's neck of the woods seem to feel this is potentially a threat against our elected horse thieves, and they are investigating the "suitability" of TJIC to possess firearms.
There is now a string of "I am TJIC" posts circulating the blogosphere based on the ending of the movie Spartacus. I first came across this on one of the blogs in the blogroll which linked back to the apparent originator, Borepatch. The basic idea is that, if the rights of one blogger (right, left, liberal, conservative, non-blogger, etc., etc.) are violated, then the rights of all us have been violated. We stand together or hang separately. Etc. Etc. Borepatch and others do a much better job of stating their position themselves than I will do paraphrasing it, and it's not my intent to merely do a "me too" post.
While I do agree with the sentiment in principle, but I feel the need to temper my agreement with some thoughts on the concept of rights AND responsibilities.
We as Americans talk a lot about rights. We seem to think every action, no matter how ridiculous, is a God given right. Much less frequently do we consider the responsibility that comes with those rights. For all the chest beating about "Congress shall make no law" or "shall not be infringed", there is a well developed line of legal thinking that says that there are certain limitations on those basic rights. For instance, the right to freedom of speech is limited in that you do not have a right to yell "fire" in a crowded theater when none exists or to incite a riot. In other words, we have a responsibility to exercise our rights with a certain level of care for the rights of others.
Now, back to the issue at hand. Regardless of the limitations on free speech that exist, there is no limitation imposed on free speech for offensiveness of which I am aware. Just go to a Klan rally or a Rev. Jeremiah Wright sermon if you need clarification on that point. You do not have a right to be free from offensive speech any more than you have a right to life when you are drowning. TJIC made what I feel was intended as a joke. A poorly timed joke made in poor taste, but a joke nonetheless. He did not say "1 down, 534 to go and Congressman [fill in the blank] is next 'cause I'm comin' for ya." That would have been a threat. How is what TJIC wrote any different than the film made about George W. Bush being assassinated? Were the makers of the film investigated for a threat against the president? Not that I recall.
Despite the tastelessness of the joke, I can understand the sentiment behind it. There is a lot of pent up anger and frustration with our elected officials in this country right now especially in the wake of the midterm elections that showed very clearly that the American people are not happy with a large portion of Congress. However, just like an individual has a responsibility to not yell fire, I think there is an individual responsibility for a person to exercise some level of wisdom and discretion in what he or she posts and when.
I must get back to work now. In short, there, but for the grace of God, go I. It was a stupid, tasteless joke. I've made more than a few myself including the one about dead hookers and live boys...in church no less. You are free to disagree with TJIC and even be offended by him, but you'd better be willing to defend TJIC's right to make a stupid joke whether you agree with it or not lest you find your own rights taken away.
I am TJIC.