Guest Column: Lambs to the slaughter

Mara Kealey

No matter where you live in the world, you will have opinions and views that have been formed by your surroundings. Personal philosophies are what make us who we are and, sometimes without us even realizing it, dictate a large portion of our lives. I have spent quite some time contemplating what my overall philosophy is, but I can not seem to find one thing that is more important than freedom of speech. It is the most basic yet essential right Americans have but it is often taken for granted.

In a country that is run by a central government, freedom of speech is essential. Without freedom of speech, Americans might not have any say in things like where tax dollars are spent or who will be our next 2012 president. Another important law that derives from freedom of speech is the freedom to assemble. For instance, if people are upset about a law that is passed that they feel is unjust, they have the right to rally together and have their opinions heard.

Freedom of assembly is still seen all over the United States today. In February of 2011, Gov. Scott Walker took away the rights for collective bargaining from state employees in the state of Wisconsin. Collective bargaining gives workers the right to voice their opinions about things like budget cuts and hourly pay. Not just the state of Wisconsin, but people from all over the United States gathered at the Capitol in Madison to protest the passing of this law.

My father is a high school history teacher and thought it would be a good idea for our family to drive up to Madison to witness this protest. The first day we arrived there were over 80,000 people there, all protesters. Thousands of people were not just protesting in the Capitol but also living there. All you could see were people sitting on sleeping bags on the floor singing and holding protest signs. All of the local store owners had signs in their windows saying, “We are Anti-Walker!” and “All Walker protesters welcome!” My family marched around the Capitol for hours singing protest songs like, “Hey Hey! Ho Ho! Scott Walker has got to go!!” Everywhere you went people were giving protest speeches, even some celebrities had shown up to give support like, the famous TV announcer Ed Schultz, the civil rights activist Jesse Jackson and the band Rage Against the Machine. There was also a street that was divided so that pro- and anti-Walker protesters would not start fights, but it turned out they didn’t need to divide the street because there were only eight people there who were pro-Walker.

I strongly believe that without freedom of speech, the United States would be without many of our necessary laws and amendments. It is what lets us march up and down the roads of Wisconsin without being arrested for speaking out of term or challenging a higher power. It lets us disagree with our neighbor as if enemies but keeps us collected enough to be able to live on the same street. In the wise words of George Washington, “If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we must be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”