I have been struggling this week with the lines between free speech and hate speech; art and pornography and/or gratuitous violence. It is a line that has been challenging me on social media, in my writing life and unfolding in demonstrations and counter demonstrations all over the United States this week. I fiercely defend first amendment rights and am a passionate advocate of divergent literature but I have found my personal boundaries pushed over and over again this week. White supremacists, artistic provocateurs and writers whose motivations are opaque have exposed me to viewpoints, to written words, that are targeted, violent, unsettling and often inhumane. As a person who cares deeply about social justice, I have struggled with how directly to confront it—I do not generally choose silence but nor do I want to provide fuel to someone who will use my words for their own physical or mental masturbation. As a childhood sexual abuse survivor, this is even more complex. Sometimes when a stimuli is especially triggering, the best self-care is to remove myself from the situation, at least until the dust settles emotionally.
I am sure that I will continue to mull this over in the coming days and weeks. I am not sure that we have cultural agreement on what is first amendment protected speech and what is harassment and terroristic threats any more than I am sure that there is a clear culturally accepted line between what is erotica versus pornography, realistic violence versus a snuff poem. I only know that this week I discovered some of my limits as a reader, as a human being, and that I need to sit with that for a while.
© 2017 Christine Elizabeth Ray – All rights Reserved