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Freedom of Speech and Expression - Little Freedom in a Complex World

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Little Freedom of Expression

Freedom of expression, like the air we breathe, is a luxury that most people in western civilization take for granted. I know I certainly took it for granted when I was in the twelfth grade, and that presumption almost got me expelled. In Cornwall, Ontario this last December the idea of freedom of speech did more than get a young man expelled. He was forced to spend the better part of a month, including Christmas, New Year's Eve, and his sixteenth birthday in jail. Finally there is the case of the former mayor of Mukingo in Ruhengeri Prefecture, Juvenal Kejelijeli, who is desperately fighting deportation to face charges for his "freedom of expression," which helped ignite genocide in Rwanda. Free speech
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It is completely illogical to assume that they are going to go out into the real world and blow up an oil refinery because they blew one up in their story. Fortunately my Creative Writing teacher, Mr. Stevenson, went to bat for me. He felt strongly about freedom of expression and convinced the dean, his boss, that I should not be expelled for my story as I was simply doing what I was told. He gave me an A on the assignment but more importantly he restored my faith in freedom of expression.

Fictional stories should not be chargeable offences, but we should be aware of what may be written between the lines. When the characters in the story are directly related to living people, when the violence occurs in reality based settings, like the author's school, people take notice. Suddenly the value of freedom of expression becomes a hazy issue. People get their backs up and an author could wind up spending Christmas in jail. This was the case in Avonmore Ontario, a small town near Cornwall, where a fifteen year old boy spent a month in jail, charged with uttering a death threat for a fictional story he wrote called Twisted. It was the story of a tortured student, bullied his entire life, who extracts a brutal revenge on his schoolmates by placing a bomb in the cafeteria, set to go off at lunch time. In light of the Columbine massacre and, a little closer to home, the Taber shooting, warning flags were raised, and so they should
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