Freedom of speech is not just something we have as free human beings. It is a liberty we exercise. When necessary, we fight for it.
For the Memorial Day weekend, I have been reading Harvard professor Harvey Mansfield’s ennobling book Manliness. Manliness (a virtue, sometimes a vice, available to all) expresses human beings’ fundamental dignity. If I understand the argument correctly, it is not necessarily enough to possess a basic freedom—the manly person asserts it, points out its value, and exercises it prudently. Manliness also means fighting with those who aggressively (here’s the darker side) assert their power in order to take away others’ basic liberty and dignity.
Mansfield also writes:
The right of private property builds fences that protect us from overmuch interference either from fellow citizens or from the government, reacting to their pressure. But we also have a right of free speech, a right to address our fellow citizens, to raise issues, and thus to create a public question out of a previously private matter. It takes a certain quality of soul to do this, and the quality is manliness, the manly responsibility we have defined.
While FIRE fights from the desk and the podium so that college students and professors may freely assert their views (from "We Love Yale Sluts" to deep philosophy), today we honor those of both sexes who have fought for fundamental rights with their lives. FIRE is closed today for Memorial Day.