Free writing day. Ad liberty to write. To speak my mind. It’s a writing prompt that feels like a challenge, a cumbersome one. While it is actually a luxury, the ultimate expression of freedom to be able to say and write want you want. It is for that reason that the freedom of speech is the most fundamental of human rights, taking priority to all other fundamental rights. And yet, those other rights of others keep me from writing freely. Will others be offended? Feel discriminated against? And although it isn’t a fundamental right: what if what they think badly about my writing and use their freedom of speech to express their opinion?
Freedom of speech isn’t a ideal surrounded with flying cherubs, scented roses and silver moons shining. True freedom of speech has raw edges, opinions contradicting, grinding against each other, fighting. ‘No shine without polishing,’ someone said to me not too long ago during our argument. It’s a fact that is slowly being forgotten, as we are hushed to sleep by the only option on social media to like or favorite an update. We are forgetting that in the contradiction of opinions lies the opportunity to get understanding of or from others, to sharpen your mind, to nuance your opinion. It’s an art that is mastered by few, but to the freedom of speech there’s no difference between those with or without eloquence.
Lack of debating skills doesn’t provide a free pass to skip basic rules of decency and manners. “Bad form, Peter, bad form,” Captain Hook would say to those who shamelessly shouted “Good Riddens” to the over 500 boat refugees that drowned last week. Bad form isn’t discrimination in itself, but the line is thin. Very thin. The boat refugees might have rightfully claimed being discriminated against, but what good does that do them now? They’re floating facedown in the Mediterranean Sea, the same sea in which half of Europe coming summer will be floating on airbeds. Airbeds. Not inflatable rafts.
The thought of those refugees hunt me because next Tuesday, the Netherlands will be celebrating their freedom. On 5th of May, Liberation Day celebrates the surrender of the nazis, ending five years of occupation, the Jew genocide and the Hunger Winter of ’44. But as fewer survivors of the Second World War are alive to tell their stories, the story shifts from liberation from the nazis to liberty in general. What puzzles me, is that Liberation Day is only once in five years a national holiday. Apparently, this is how important it is to us Dutch people. We take our liberty and freedom for granted, I guess. And when others wager their lives to be free, free from war, free from poverty, hunger or oppression, we only think about our freedom of speech enabling us to express a ‘Good Riddens.’ Then we take a sip of our beers and turn to the music playing at the Liberation Day Music Festival.
Writing 101 Day 19: Today is a free writing day. Four-hundred words. One at a time. Go. Note to reader: This post is based on a free writing exercise written in Dutch, which I translated trying to avoid editing in the process as much as I could.