Within the Graffiti park, you can find a beautifully painted mural of Frida Kahlo, the famous Mexican painter who took inspiration from nature, her culture, and herself. Kahlo’s art embodied elements of her own identity, so it’s fitting that the college student who painted this mural added a few modern elements to the painting. Just to name a few: coffee, instant ramen, a cell phone, the the book that Kahlo is reading all seem to be important parts of the anonymous painter’s identity, and there are much more that I’m certain the painter could never fit into a single painting. The Graffiti Park allows a safe place for artists to express themselves. Freedom of expression is such an important right in America, yet many Americans either forget that others are allowed to express different opinions, or forget that you can be held responsible for abusing said freedom.
This tribute to Kahlo couldn’t possibly make passerby feel so uncomfortable that they feel the need to report it and get it taken down, but the same can’t be said if Kahlo were replaced with a certain cheeto man wearing a red cap with the letters MAGA printed on the front. This isn’t a declaration of my political beliefs. Far from it. Rather, I am stressing that it is important to remember that freedom of speech goes both ways. Most higher education institutions seem to house a majority of liberals, and I fear than many conservatives are too afraid to express themselves because they don’t want to be criticized. Of course, if exercising that freedom leads to one or more individuals getting hurt or killed, then the punishment dished out to the perpetrator is justified no matter what their political beliefs are.
Amendment 1 of the Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution expresses the sentiment that Congress will not make laws preventing people from exercising free religion or demanding that people follow a specific religion. Furthermore, it grants people the right to freedom of speech. This relates to the picture below of the graffiti boards near the student center. These graffiti boards are used for students to artistically exercise their freedom of speech and for years, students have used them to make a statement, philosophical, political, or otherwise. In this particular picture, the board in question addresses Islam Awareness Week. In the corner it states, “I am who I am because I’m Muslim.” The person who made this makes a very important statement: their religion is a part of their identity. As a part of the U.S. Constitution, freedom of religion is guaranteed to all. Yet in recent times due to terrorism on the part of some individuals, the entire religion of Islam has been discriminated against and looked down upon. This student clearly and proudly states, however, that the people they are today can be attributed, at least in part, to their religion. So here we see this student exercising both their rights to freedom of speech and freedom of religion against opposition. Therefore, we see the very existence of these graffiti boards as a manifestation of the rights of freedom of speech and religion granted to us in the Bill of Rights, proof that we still try to stick to the values our ancestors intended America to have. From this comes the question: if religion is linked to one’s identity and should be protected, should all parts of our identity be protected by the law? What other parts of our identity (that aren’t addressed by the Bill of Rights) do we still need the government to protect?
The picture I decided to choose, is a logo of a well-known and used application. In this day and age, we are widely connected in the world by technology and other media. One thing that’s common today are chat rooms on the Internet like Omegle or Discord. In these areas, no one knows exactly who anyone could be: anonymity is valued. Over there freedom of speech is allowed and cannot be stopped (of course there are still some rules). This ties in well with Kant’s value of free will and speech. Through the Internet, people are given the option to be able to create a new type of personality that differs from their in real life characteristics. Anonymity gives people the freedom to express their ideas without fear of backlash.
Every time I pass the blackboard in the student center, I always spend a few seconds to look at those comments on the board. Some expressing their wishes and some directly speak out their personal views about the ongoing things. As a viewer, I always find this interesting and feel more relaxed with those written ideas on it. It creates a relaxing environment that encourages free expressions from students. As a diversified University, every different kind of idea exists here should not be disregarded, since we all have the freedom of speech and expression in many forms, which corresponds to the Article in the Declaration of the Rights of Man, “The free expression of thought and opinions is one of the most precious rights of man: thus every citizen may freely speak, write, and print” (Article 11, Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen). Apart from this blackboard, there are also a few boards in front of the student center allowing students to do their paintings on. The paintings on them change frequently and range from different styles. However, there are sometimes that words on the blackboard appear to be offensive that may make others or a particular group of people feel uncomfortable.
This leads to my question that to how large the extent can one have the right to freely express their thoughts and opinions publically?