Community perspective: Freedom of expression

A contributed perspectives piece by Charlotte Shristi, Greta Kreider, Lee O’Neill, Rachelle Martindale and Amy Potter Czajkowski

As a nonpartisan group of women, we are writing to affirm that whoever you are, our equality is bound up with yours, as yours is bound up with ours. In our workplaces, homes, communities, and collectively as a nation, we are all making important choices. We are laying foundations for our shared future.  Will we live into our founding fathers’ ideals of liberty and justice, freedom and equality for all?

Recently, in response to her exercising her freedom of speech, one of our friend’s freedom was attacked. A campaign sign supporting her candidate of choice was stolen from her property in Rockingham County. A number of people driving by yelled insults, while another threatened to come back at night to steal her second sign. More recently it was spray painted.  Attacking one person’s freedom of expression is an attack on the freedom of all people, including those who tried to intimidate her — people who presumably profess their own rights and yet can’t stand other people’s freedom to express opinions differing from their own. What kind of “freedom” is that?  

During her life, Ruth Bader Ginsburg powerfully demonstrated how liberty and justice for one of us promotes liberty and justice for all. In the same way, injustice for one threatens us all. Several cases she argued before the Supreme Court (even before her appointment to it) showed that policies which restricted women to certain roles harmed men as well. 

As women, we desire to live with freedom and dignity. As women of primarily European ancestry, we affirm the voices and examples of women of color who show us how intertwined our freedom is with each other’s.  They inspire us to achieve “liberty and justice for all.” 

Linda Sarsour, a Palestinian-American and organizer of the Women’s March on Washington, says “If you want to know if you are going the right way, follow women of color, sisters and brothers. We know where we need to go and we know where justice is because when we fight for justice, we fight for it for all people, all our communities.”  Black writer and civil rights activist Audre Lorde stated, “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.” And Murri Aborginal artist and activist Dr. Lilla Watson admonished, “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” 

Yes, we are living through historic and troubled times. Many of us would like a savior to magically transport us back in time to pre-COVID, pre-recession reality. But as a nation, we have a choice to make. Will we put our heads in the sand, continue magical thinking, and blame each other, or will we look around, see our neighbors and community and imagine an intentionally shared future? 

The reality is, our nation is becoming more diverse. Are we willing to play by the rules we espouse to preserve our constitution and our democracy? Are we truly willing to grant liberty and justice for all? Even if we don’t always get our way personally?  Even if the historical and institutionalized privilege of European Americans and the majority we were once part of is shifting?

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