Article Comment 

Adele Elliott: Speaking freely

 

Adele Elliott

 

This week, I received two photographs of U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens being dragged through the streets of Benghazi, just before he died. He was bruised and bloody, his clothing filthy and torn. They made me horribly sad. 

 

This was not something I wanted, or needed, to see. We know what happened. A fine man is dead. No photographic documentation is required. I could think only of his family, and how I hope they will be spared these images. That, of course, is highly unlikely. Everyone in the world will see them. 

 

Although I am disturbed, and quite angry at the person who emailed them to me, I support his right to do that. 

 

Early media coverage suggested that the attack was a spontaneous response to an American-made, online movie that was considered offensive to Muslims. Later reports seem to debunk that theory. No matter. In this country free speech is protected by law. It can be offensive, inflammatory, or just plain repulsive. Still, we may say whatever we wish. Feelings may get hurt, old wounds opened, indignation ignited. The first amendment gives us that right. 

 

I can say that the moon is a portal that the pilots of UFOs use to enter our world. You may believe me, or think I am insane. I still am allowed to preach it through the streets of Columbus, if I so desire. 

 

One in every three Mississippians is a Southern Baptist. That would be a formidable group to infuriate. However, in 2011, the First Baptist Church in Columbus got a lot of criticism concerning their destruction of an historically important structure on Seventh Street North. 

 

People from all over the community protested this move. As it turned out, the church razed the building without much fanfare. The feelings of local citizens meant nothing. 

 

But, the point is that few were afraid to voice their outrage. This is a city that touts its tourism appeal, especially our architecture, making the decision highly questionable. The First Baptist Church had no fear of thumbing its nose at popular opinion. That, too, is freedom. 

 

In the Stevens photos, one of the rioters holds a cell phone in his mouth. It is amazing to me that even in poverty-stricken countries, the latest technology is available to street gangs. This makes it impossible to edit or censor anything posted, anywhere. 

 

Those pictures made me cry. The family of Ambassador Stevens will never be able to forget them. But, in the end, free speech wins. And that is a good thing.

 

Adele Elliott, a New Orleans native, moved to Columbus after Hurricane Katrina.

 

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