Gossip: The Opiate of the Oppressed

Gossip: The Opiate of the Oppressed December 13, 2010

The silence has been purposeful as I have contemplated the best way to put into words the thing that is troubling me.

Just tell the people how you feel, my husband advised.

They will stone me, I replied.

Perhaps, he agreed.

But know this, I don’t say it lightly. I am not making a statement haphazardly or out of ignorance, but rather out of a deep-seated concern for what I consider the undoing of us all.

I no longer believe in the First Amendment, not as it is practiced and protected in this country, at any rate. I don’t believe Freedom of Speech is an inalienable human right any more than I believe that all men are created equal.  A person must first redefine equal as something other than having the same value as another because this country has an ugly history to the contrary.

I know that it is a sacrilege for a woman who is a trained journalist to take a stand against the First Amendment. What about Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo? Have I considered the injustices of living in a country where Freedom of Speech is a punishable offense?

I have and that’s why I’ve put off writing this. I don’t want to laud such behavior, or to give credence to an archaic regime and its wrong-headed evil. But two wrongs don’t make a right, and while China is clearly in the wrong when it comes to the issues of human dignity, I think we’re being quite self-righteous given our track record.

The death of Elizabeth Edwards has exemplified for me much of what has gone wrong with us. Nearly all the news reports of her death and funeral have mentioned the infidelity of her estranged husband John Edwards. Most spelled out the name of the other woman.

And I have sat on the other side of the keyboard wondering how do I write what I’m thinking without doing the very thing that has angered me? How do I say that I think that this practice is wrong on so many levels without myself mentioning the infidelity and the other woman? So accept that I understand the double-standard, the hypocrisy if you will, but there is simply no other way to explain what I’m thinking. 

Why does a spouse’s infidelity warrant mention in the death reports of any of us? Why is that news? Why is that protected under the First Amendment? Why should that be the legacy that is put into print and passed along to generations to follow? For the grandchildren not yet born?

And, now as the headlines are speculating on whether the seducer who betrayed Elizabeth Edwards will help parent the children left behind, I can’t help but feel, rather strongly, that gossip has no place in the news. I have come to think that we have this whole Freedom of Speech thing totally messed up.

And don’t even get me started on those Anti-Christ protestors who showed up at Elizabeth Edwards’s funeral. If this is what it means to have the protection of the First Amendment then, buddy, I’d be happy with some censorship. It is long past time we prosecuted these folks and quit giving voice to their stupidity and evil-hearted endeavors.

We have become a callous, classless, and careless generation, given over to self-righteousness. We bad-mouth other nations for their human right offenses, while we drag the living and the dead naked through the filthy gutters of gossip.

If it is true that gossip is the opiate of the oppressed, then it’s pretty clear that we’ve got no room for boasting over our nation neighbors when it comes to issues of human dignity.

What good, pray tell, is the First Amendment as we are practicing it, doing us?


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