I have a big mouth.
For as long as I can remember I have had a big mouth.
It has gotten me beat up. Punched in the face.
Me and my big mouth have earned bullet holes in my windows in my home. Car windows shattered.
And, more than a few threatening phone calls throughout my life.
In the 54 years that I have been on this planet my big mouth has said things I regret, as well as things that needed to be said.
From this big mouth I’ve prayed out loud for mercy, for compassion and for joy.
Angry words, kind words, gentle words and harsh ones have come from my big mouth.
Sad words, joyful ones and even a few uncertain ones have been known to be heard from my big mouth.
For me my big mouth isn’t just the one on my face. It’s also the words that flow from my head to my fingers to the keyboard.
Between my big mouth and my fingers, I’ve managed to earn a living, accomplish a couple of things that have made me proud of my time on this planet and, of course, annoyed more people than I can count.
Not a day goes by, however, that I don’t understand the value of the freedom that allows me to write and say what I want, when I want, where I want and why I want to say or write it.
God gave me the free will to speak my mind.
American Democracy has protected my right to exercise it.
Over the course of the past 48 to 72 hours we’ve once again witnessed a President with either a limited grasp of the rights and freedoms afforded to Americans, or a deliberately willful disregard for those freedoms.
If the former is true then it would be helpful if someone gave him a copy of the Constitution of the United States of America.
If the latter is true then it would be helpful if someone reminded him of his sworn duty to uphold the Constitution of the United States of America.
I have little time for those who desecrate or otherwise dishonor America’s flag. I am weary of entertainers, celebrities and the rich and powerful on the left and right pontificating on what it really means to be an American.
Yet, my being tired of all of it has no bearing on their right to do any of it. Or say any of it.
You see, when the Framers of the Constitution wrote it they didn’t add any disclaimers about who could, or couldn’t, exercise their Right to Free Speech.
Ironically, not only did they not specifically exclude people of every color, they also didn’t exclude people of every means.
Nor was there any mention of excluding professional football players or, for that matter, chubby 54-year-old guys with big noses.
I get that the President has inflamed us once again to wage a phony culture war among each other.
I get that nearly every one of us who has an opinion has expressed it.
We chased his shiny ball, and the rabbit carrying it, down the rabbit hole.
I get it.
This issue conflicts all of us.
For my friends who harshly criticize (and, rightly so) college students for shutting down the voices of conservatives they don’t agree with, I stand with your commitment to Free Speech.
For my friends who criticize the Republican leader of the United States Senator (and, rightly so) for attempting to quash the free speech of a Democratic Senator, I stand with your commitment to Free Speech.
To my President, who suggests we should fire or otherwise target NFL players, or anyone else, who doesn’t express their right to speak in a way he supports, I will never stand with your definition of Freedom of Speech.
Free speech is not supposed to be a right accorded only to those we agree with, or those whose exercise of it meets our standards of acceptability.
We don’t get to pick and choose whose free speech is okay and whose isn’t just because it pleases us or outrages us.
Conservatives and Liberals, Democrats and Republicans, and everyone else in America who is a citizen who has anything they want to say, or not say, in their exercise of free speech is guaranteed that right.
Period. End of story. No exceptions.
An NFL player choosing not to stand during the National Anthem, or kneeling during it, or staying in the locker room while it plays, is not how I would choose to make my voice heard about the issues I believe are important enough to make that statement.
If I don’t like it, and I don’t, I can choose to change the channel.
And, I did, and I do.
But, a lot of people didn’t agree with a 54-year-old Saint Paul taxpayer putting a couple dozen bags of garbage in front of City Hall to protest politician’s failure to do their job.
I can assure you that the Mayor of St. Paul did not approve of the way I made that statement.
But, he did not question my right to do so, nor did he threaten my life, my job or my family.
My right to make that statement is no more, or less, an exercise in free speech than those NFL players who make their statements on, or off, the field.
The size of their bank account has no bearing on the size of their right to free speech.
Their right to do it, and to say it, is as big as mine.
As big as me and my big mouth.