A Strange Brand of Freedom

I lived in Australia during a special time. I was only there for four months but was able to see the lead-up to their postal vote same-sex marriage. By having a country-wide vote, the country could fairly come to a conclusion on the topic. Whatever the majority wanted would become law, it’s a fair way to do things. It’s the way things are done in a free country.
I was there long enough to see the changes. As first, every storefront was normal, displaying their wares. Then one store put up a small sticker saying “vote yes”. Eventually, other stickers showed up on mailboxes also encouraging people to vote to allow same-sex marriage. Then a store put up a large sign. Still another posted ribbons and banners. As time went on, more and more stores joined in until rainbows decorated almost every storefront. As support grew, it became easier to support the cause. Part of people’s free speech includes supporting causes and trying to convince others. It’s the way things are done in a free country.
But was it really fair?
As I walked down the streets, I could see rainbows in almost every window. But only in one place did I see any information encouraging people to vote against allowing same-sex marriage. Unfortunately, the leaflets had large holes in their arguments, were filled with typos and grammatical errors and were circulated to a closed audience, most of whom already agreed with the paper. They didn’t change anyone’s mind. They had no beneficial effect on their position. It’s sad because I know there are great reasons people had against allowing same-sex marriage. But they weren’t articulated and shared.
The whole time, the vote felt like a one-horse race. Rainbows were everywhere, but they weren’t balanced out by encouragement to vote against same-sex marriage. I know that the lack of argument against allowing same-sex marriage wasn’t because people weren’t passionate about that side. In fact, the vote was closely tied with around 40% of people voting against same-sex marriage. So why weren’t there more signs, more stickers and more storefront displays encouraging people to vote against allowing same-sex marriage? Almost half the country didn’t want this to happen, why weren’t they using their free speech?
I fear that if people had created a campaign to vote against same-sex marriage, they would have been considered discriminatory. I fear that their words would have been labelled as hate speech. I fear that the media and public opinion restricted people’s freedom of speech. Laws may defend free speech, but something stronger restricts it: fear. People in Australia didn’t feel that they had the freedom of speech to actually speak out against same-sex marriage.
It’s ironic, isn’t it? There was a vote to increase freedoms, but in the process, fundamental freedom was lost. And if there was no freedom of speech, then the whole vote was pointless. A vote is supposed to be a formal conclusion after honest debate and discussion. But this vote lacked discussion. Only one side had the freedom to project their views. It wasn’t a surprise when that side won.

But that’s the way we do things in a free country.


Comments

  1. Many need to hear this!
    Thank you for writing this! You explained it well.

    -Clayton

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Clayton. I'm glad you found it helpful and an enjoyable read.
      -Duncan Poulsen

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