I have been struggling this week with the lines between free speech and hate speech; art and pornography and/or gratuitous violence. It is a line that has been challenging me on social media, in my writing life and unfolding in demonstrations and counter demonstrations all over the United States this week.  I fiercely defend first amendment rights and am a passionate advocate of divergent literature but I have found my personal boundaries pushed over and over again this week. White supremacists, artistic provocateurs and writers whose motivations are opaque have exposed me to viewpoints, to written words, that are targeted, violent, unsettling and often inhumane.  As a person who cares deeply about social justice, I have struggled with how directly to confront it—I do not generally choose silence but nor do I want to provide fuel to someone who will use my words for their own physical or mental masturbation.  As a childhood sexual abuse survivor, this is even more complex. Sometimes when a stimuli is especially triggering, the best self-care is to remove myself from the situation, at least until the dust settles emotionally.

I am sure that I will continue to mull this over in the coming days and weeks. I am not sure that we have cultural agreement on what is first amendment protected speech and what is harassment and terroristic threats any more than I am sure that there is a clear culturally accepted line between what is erotica versus pornography, realistic violence versus a snuff poem. I only know that this week I discovered some of my limits as a reader, as a human being, and that I need to sit with that for a while.


© 2017 Christine Elizabeth Ray – All rights Reserved

12 thoughts on “Balance

  1. I think we are all struggling with what we saw and heard, as well as what we are seeing and hearing on a daily basis. I will not read or write hateful posts or comment on any. I feel your pain and frustration Christine.

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  2. I agree it is absolutely a challenge. I appreciate your very direct thoughts on the incredibly complicated matter. For me I go with my gut about anything that feels like it violates the rights of another or something that is done too someone as opposed to with them. When I cringe I stopped reading for looking. It is an altogether different matter however about when or how or to what extent to address it without provocation as you have so well articulated.

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  3. Well said Christine. It’s even blurrier when we are talking about it on a societal level. Personally, I think we have the right to decide and choose where our own lines are drawn. And this week, it seems clear that some lines have been crossed. Marcia’s comment was right on. Sending strength to you and others that have been impacted by this. Peace and love ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve always been able to separate freedom of speech from my personal beliefs/feelings. Like Christine, I respect and defend the First Amendment. That being said, I do not respect hate speech of any kind, though a person has the right to such speech. And again, like Christine, I am struggling lately.

    In times of such struggle, I do feel comforted knowing there are people–friends–I relate to, and give me strength, sustenance.


  5. Yes. I feel you. I don’t tolerate hate speech either. And especially when it’s coming from writers, sometimes it’s difficult to know (if you don’t know the author) whether or not something is not hate or abuse of some kind.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I abhor violence in any form, whether it be verbal, physical, emotional…whatever! I think that’s all I have to say. It’s personal for me. I find it hard to put into words though, how uncomfortable I feel when faced with violence in writing, but it can make me feel physically sick.


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