On the news today I heard a story about a woman of color who had been insulted at a campus diversity rally. A reporter asked her, “How do you answer a person who says, as this person did, ‘Freedom of speech is my First Amendment right’?” I began to think about what I would have answered…
Freedom of speech is a law of our country, and it should be. It protects us from oppression by the powerful; it makes us a government by the people. But there is a higher law. There is a law written on our hearts, if we could only read it. Call it moral law. There is “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.” “Love your neighbor as yourself.” And most of all, “Love your enemy.”
I imagine Jesus sitting on the steps of the student union teaching the freshmen (and in this we are all freshmen). I was hungry, and you did not give me food. I was thirsty and you did not give me drink. I was black, and you called me degrading names. I was Muslim and you torched my mosque, Jewish, and you defaced my synagogue. I was a pedestrian, and you drove your car onto my sidewalk, a child and you brought guns into my school, a civil servant and you filled your truck with explosives and parked it beside my workplace. I was a woman and you took advantage of me. I was unborn, or old, and you killed me. I was imprisoned in my sexual identity, and you did not visit me, a drug addict and you did not comfort me, illiterate and you did not teach me, unemployed and you did not hire me, a human being and you did not respect me. I made mistakes, I sinned — and you gossiped about me, ostracized me, condemned me.
I was also the perpetrator, and you did not see the fear behind my anger, the crippled soul behind my violence, the dust in my fiery eyes.
The First Amendment protects us from the worst in ourselves. The Law of Love urges us to become the best of ourselves. It is eternally higher. That’s my answer.
– Blog entry by Sister Paula Gero