Column: Free Speech And Civility

By Senator Kent Williams
Free speech is a right protected by the Constitution!
A person can freely express a belief or opinion.
Another person can listen, disagree and express a different view.
They can enjoy a spirited debate void of name calling and judging.
Free speech has somehow become a justification for disrespectful and threatening language. There is a line and a difference.
Some people say hurtful things to people in private and public. They do not care nor are they concerned about hurt feelings or going too far. Is this free speech or rude behavior?
Civility does not mean you have to agree. It does not mean you like it. Surely, you can open your mind to an opposing viewpoint without blowing your top, yelling and screaming, fighting or reaching for a weapon.
Some people can agree to disagree or not say anything at all because they have nothing nice to say.
Unfortunately, too many people are resorting to uncivilized behavior in public and online. They cannot ignore anything that is not in line with their beliefs or views. Too many people become upset on a level that requires them to attack! They must say something and/or do something. What has precipitated this incivility? Why?
Social media is partly to blame because there is a place where you can go to share an opinion on everything whether you know anything about it or not. It is a lot easier to make obnoxious comments on Facebook or Twitter. You can say something online that you would never dream of saying in person to that person. The anonymity of social media encourages bad behavior. There are countless documented easy to access examples of incivility every day either on the news or find it later online. It should be unacceptable to behave this way, but it is quickly becoming the new normal.
It is up to all of us to discourage this behavior. Encourage civil discourse! It is important to have a civil debate with someone who has an opposing viewpoint and to advocate respectfully for your own position. Advocacy does not have to be adversarial.
As with all matters concerning state government, I want to hear your opinions and suggestions concerning these issues. Please contact me in my Columbia office located at 608 Gressette Office Building. You can reach me, or a member of my staff in Columbia at (803) 212-6000 or by fax at (803) 212-6011 My district office is located at 2523 East Highway 76, Marion, SC 29571, the phone number is (843) 423-8237 and the fax number is (843) 431-6049. You may also email me at kentwilliams@
My business phone is (843) 423-3904. Please use this information to write, call or email me with your suggestions and concerns regarding issues before the Senate and in our community.

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