“Fuck is one of this fucking words you can fucking put anywhere in a fucking sentence and it still fucking makes sense,” a young Indiana boy tweeted from his personal account on a personal computer. Just days later he found himself expelled from high school.
Some might argue this is nothing serious, and others might say he should be punished. The school allegedly said this is inappropriate behavior. But, this perspective ignores the fact that each time the idea of free expression gets limited, the notion gets more and more eroded.
The right to express oneself and one’s ideas freely is a human right. As stipulated in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, “everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.”
Expelling a young boy might seem trivial, but even the most basic erosion can lead up to erosion of the freedom of thought. What hinders the authorities from seeking out, questioning, and persecuting every individual with unconventional or uncomfortable views?
Freedom of expression is crucial for a democratic society. The idea of expressing thoughts freely is what stimulates debate. Through debate, and the utterance of ideas that at a first glance might seem radical, societies develop and progress. The importance of freedom of thought and expression as basic values of all societies should hence not be ignored, not even in the smallest sense. Without free expression, political action or resistance to oppression of injustice is impossible. As the freedom of expression suffers, so does democratic society.
Some might argue that the connection between expelling a school boy and the right to free expression is too vague. But the small limitations in basic human rights will inevitably pave way for greater ones.
In February, the Saudi Arabian writer Hamza Kashgari was arrested in Malaysia and extradited to Saudi Arabia to face charges of blasphemy. “I have loved things about you and I have hated things about you and there is a lot I don’t understand about you … I will not pray for you,” he had tweeted about the Prophet Muhammad.
Blasphemy effortlessly translates into religious inappropriate behavior. The international community easily, and rightfully so, condemned the Kingdom for its actions but seem unable to see the arising problem in its own backyard.
Even if it entails defending a high school student’s right to post profanities on Twitter, we need to cherish the freedom of expression and fight for it. In lieu with Voltaire, I will, even if I disapprove of what you say, defend your right to say it. Expelling one young boy for his expressions is just a step away from imprisoning one young man for his.