The Miss USA controversy is only the latest round of criticism leveled at one who dares to go against the rising tide of accepted belief. We expect such dissent only from those on the far right fringe, from the Limbaughs and Becks of the world. Not from real people. I'm told that a law against "hate speech" is winding its way through the Congress. The law will bring into the legal code that which is already the prevailing sentiment. If and when the law passes, it will merely be the final nail on the coffin of free speech.
As I ponder the question of what killed the first amendment, I find only one logical answer. Political correctness did not kill it. Nor did politicians. And neither did bloviating social commentators on the left or the right. No, I think something far more insidious, something far more difficult to root out of the culture dealt the final blow to what was, in truth, a rather fragile right. I believe the collective immaturity of the American culture and people killed free speech. Tolerating dissent, engaging in an intelligent conversation with those who see the world in a completely different way, and allowing those with whom we disagree to speak freely and openly, all require a level of maturity America has not seen in nearly a generation. Instead we puff up like a toddler whose favorite toy was taken away whenever anyone disagrees with us. We shout and try to drown out dissenting opinion rather than enter into genuine debate. Worse yet, we feel personally attacked whenever anyone thinks in a way that forces us to rethink our own positions.
I have long believed that independent thought is the most dangerous thing in the world. The angry reaction to one lone beauty pageant expressing something other than the company line shows how true this is. Since independent thought can only be expressed through free speech, we must eliminate the latter to protect ourselves against the former. The fatal blow was dealt long ago. Today we are merely free to say that which will offend no one, no one that is, except ourselves.