Please bear with me on this little history lesson. We’re going on a somber trip, a reminder of what writers had to deal with even in the civilized corners of the globe.
Blessed Memorial Day. I know we’re international, but in America, today is a day we remember those who died for our freedom. So thank you to those fighting for it, and especially thank you to those who died and will never know how grateful I am.
Freedom of speech is not perfect throughout the world, and sometimes it’s not even existent. But we have incredible freedom of speech, especially in the Western world. We are able to say things online that are horrible, uplifting, destructive, and empowering. We can air our opinions, and there are more than enough people who will come back and brow beat those opinions with their own. Something we may not fully appreciate.
When taking an English literature class there was a man who stood out to me and reminded me how amazing it is that we truly have freedom of speech, that the government does not get involved and take it into their own hands.
It was during the 1500s, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth. England was protestant, and the protestants were allowing a good amount of freedom of speech, where the Catholic church was very staunch in their reaction to people who spoke out. To give you an idea, Galileo not only lost his sight from staring at the sun to chart it, he was also detained by the inquisition for claiming the earth revolved around the sun.
At the time, France was still Catholic, and Elizabeth wished to marry a French duke, who was the son of the king of France. It was Stubbs’ opinion. It may have been a little overreacting. Stubbs stated that first, Elizabeth didn’t need to get married since she couldn’t have kids. Second, and more important to him, was that if a French man was allowed to marry the Queen of England, it could destroy the freedom of speech England was enjoying under Protestantism.
Ironically, for making a comment on how he didn’t want to lose the current freedom of speech enjoyed in England, he, his printer, and his publisher would be convicted of sedition. The punishment from Queen Elizabeth was to cut off their right hand, so they could never write something seditious ever again.
Story doesn’t end there. Stubbs was up there, ready to lose his hand, to which he said to the crowd, “Pray for me now, my calamity is at hand.” Good sense of humor. After having his hand cut off, just before he passed out, he said, “God save the queen.” The crowd is supposed to respond, but they said nothing. Stubbs paid for his speech. He remained loyal to the queen and continued to write, doing great things for England.
People have had their tongues cut off, fingers mutilated, been hung, decapitated, and a dozen other punishments. There has been branding, torture, and so forth. All because someone said something, because they wrote something, because they had an opinion that was not agreeable by whoever was in charge, or whoever had the largest mob.
There are those who say horrible things about our soldiers, and they have the right to do that. But on Memorial Day, remember those soldiers in the ground, the ones training, the ones serving, they are the reason we have those freedoms. They are the reason people can disparage the president, no matter which side they’re on. It’s the reason we can even have multiple parties getting into power. We can decry corporations and pollution. We can do all of this because of a freedom Stubbs did not enjoy. A freedom many people have sacrificed years of their lives for. A freedom many people died for.
Blessed Memorial Day.