This morning during breakfast I was reading an article out of The Washington Post National Weekly Edition to my son.  The article, entitled "A Plea to Keep Families Together," discussed the realities faced by children born in the U.S. of illegal immigrants.  As I am prone to do, I shared my opinion with my son, to which he replied, "Why don't you email the president and tell him what you think?" "What a good idea," I answered.  My son, looking quite thoughtful, then said, "Oh, mom, George Bush probably won't like your email, so he might put you in jail; maybe you'd better not send one."  Lucky me, a lesson on the freedom of America just fell into my lap.  "Well, you know sweetie, in America you are free to have your own opinion and say what you think."  The words were barely out of my mouth when images of Don Imus entered my head.

Now I have no interest in Don Imus.  Two weeks ago, I wouldn't have recognized his name, although I think I once saw a picture of him.  I happened to come across his comment about the Rutgers's women's basketball team while I was waiting for my car to be serviced.  The gasp I made caused my older son to look up from his Gameboy wanting to know what I had read.  I slid the paper to him and watched as his eyes widened.  "This is not 1892," he said, "It's 2007, what's wrong with this guy?"  I beamed at my son's response, patted myself for raising a sensitive child, and did not once utter a word about free speech in America.

I can tell you why I didn't stand up for Don Imus; it goes back to my freshman year in college.  I was standing in line for the Rocky Horror Picture Show with my boyfriend.  A man and a woman probably in their mid-forties, about my age now, got into an altercation with a 16-year-old girl.  As the argument became heated, the man suddenly yelled out, "You are nothing but a c–t."  The hairs on my arms stood up and, as my disgust turned to anger, I yelled back, "I can't believe a grown man like you would say that to a young girl.  You offended not only her, you offended me and every other woman here, even your own friend!"  As I moved towards him, my boyfriend grabbed my arm, stepping between myself and the man.  The man opened his mouth to say something, stopped and turned away. I'd like to think my words had something to do with his change in attitude, but it was probably the glare my boyfriend aimed at him that shut him up.

That is why at 44 I find myself at a crossroads.  I'm fed up and disgusted with a culture that allows women to be treated with contempt disguised as art.  I know why I wasn't aware of Don Imus  one listen and I would have changed the station.  So I ask myself, why isn't that enough now?  After all ,no one has to listen to a Don Imus or watch a Mel Gibson.  The thought is if enough people stop listening and watching, the individuals will be minimized, eventually fading into the background.  So is it censure when CBS fires Don Imus?  Is it a response from the American public, fed up with an anything-goes media?  What does freedom of speech really mean? 

For myself, I am going to take a stand.  I cherish my right to have an opinion, to know that I can disagree with others, even the president, and not end up in a cell somewhere. The right to voice an opinion, however, is not a blank check to hurt others.  Calling young women who have just won a victory a derogatory name is not an opinion; it is simply a man trying to put women in their place, someone seeking approval by hurting others.  I want my children to know that those who came before them died for their freedom to make their own choices in the world.  I want my children to know that I will fight to protect the rights that we have been given. Most importantly, I want my children to know that words can hurt and no amount of "sorrys" can take them back.         


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