This Week

It has been a difficult week here in the United States of America. I am not surprised that my usual Sunday guest columnist, Paul Curran, wants to write about the shootings in the country south of his Canadian border. He points to at least some of the unrest and worse as tied to to our passion for free speech and what that means and can lead to. In his weekly email that accompanies his column, Paul wondered if I’d want to publish this piece or not. Of course I will give you your weekly forum, sir, no matter whether or not I agree with your point of view. That’s how strongly I believe in our concept of free speech.

Your Barrista -- Paul Curran

Your Barrista — Paul Curran

Welcome to the weekly coffee and tea garden. My name is Paul, I’ll be your barista today and I’m happy to be here at Mark Bialczak’s Little Bitty in Syracuse, New York. Please come in and go through to the living room. Mark, his wife Karen and their pooch Ellie B, have prepared a nice, air-conditioned, comfy place for us so I can tend to your needs for a cuppa, and sweets. The weather this morning is rainy with a high just over 70 F. As usual, I’d be pleased to bring a pot of whatever beverage you prefer. We have a wide range of teas and coffees to satisfy our worldwide readership and adult beverages for those who wish something stronger. We can relax with a cuppa in the air conditioning while we discuss the affairs of the week both personal and/or worldwide. Ellie likes to be patted, so please indulge her when she greets you. Have a piece of cake (or any of the sweets on the next table) – electronic sweets are all calorie-free! How has your week been? Are you enjoying the weekend? Any special activities?

The Girls and Friends for Tea


Along with the rest of the world I was saddened by the shootings in America this week. First, the two police shootings of blacks where the officers have already been found guilty in the public forum based on home video being circulated on the Internet. Then it all culminated in the deaths of numerous police officers in Dallas at the hands of a black shooter.

This has raised the level of anger and blame substantially. As a Canadian, when I see the incidents in the U.S. the first thing I do is wonder is if they could occur here, of course. Aside from the difference in gun laws, however, we have laws against promoting hate in public. In the U.S. a great deal of faith is put in Freedom of Speech. Here that does not include speaking hate about a group in public – a fairly common occurrence in the U.S., if the media we see is any indication.

I commented on one blog on how this added to the situation that resulted in the deaths, and I was soundly denounced. It seems that even in the dark times of the recent killings, that any talk of Freedom of Speech being reigned in to disallow hate speech, is considered obscene. In fact I was told “…I can call you out when you disrespectfully and petulantly spread bullshit on my blog.”

That said, I can feel from the tone of the many American bloggers who chose to comment on the Dallas shootings that the emotional stress is escalating. This is a recipe for further shootings as tempers start to reign and calm consideration goes by the wayside. As I grieve the loss of life on both sides, I fear the escalation of shootings.

Any opinions on Freedom of Speech or gun laws or any other contributors to the hatred and shootings? This is a very sensitive topic, as I have come to realize – even when the purpose is to address the causes of the incidents and an attempt to improve the atmosphere. Please do not think that I am pontificating – for I am not. The issue is very large with roots going back centuries and any one change is unlikely to solve it completely. It will take a collaboration of groups and a system of changes to begin to address the problems. That said, American ingenuity and determination can solve this. You have achieved many huge tasks, some including changing your society. Such achievements make it clear that this current problem of race relations and police brutality can be solved.

Our prayers and thoughts go out to those who have lost loved ones or had friends, family or colleagues injured this week. I know our friends to the south can find solutions to their current problems. Do you have any thoughts you would like to address about this topic? Please feel free to comment as you wish.

Please join me in thanking Mark, Karen and Ellie B for their invitation to tea on this weekend. We are all honored that you dropped by today to visit. I hope you’ve enjoyed yourself and the conversation and please look around at Mark’s other posts while you’re here. Have a great week.

High Tea in Harlem



30 thoughts on “This Week

  1. Thanks so much for the opportunity to write my thoughts here Mark. Your dedication to the Freedom of Speech is noted and appreciated.


  2. What saddens me is that people believe freedom of speech means they can say anything they want without consequence. Freedoms come with responsibility. I ‘can’ say what I want to say, but I have a responsibility to who I am speaking to and who I am speaking of. I can’t think of one freedom I have that does not come with a responsibility attached. And that, my friend, is my blog for today. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • I saw that and I agreed 100% Colleen – likening it to two sides of the same coin. I too believe this to be true and yet most seem not to. Thank you so very much for the read and comment – you are one of very few today.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Paul, I agree with your Canadian law against promoting hate in public. The problem here in the US is that we are still children; we want freedoms but don’t understand or want the responsibility that comes with those freedoms. Hackles are raised when any suggestion occurs that might curtail any particular individual freedom for the good of the entire country. It’s quite sad, really. As far as I’m concerned, my freedom should end when it infringes upon any of your rights. Unfortunately, I’m afraid I’m in the minority down here.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much for dropping by Susan – I am honored. I agree with you but we are in the minority. The topic of hate speech causing violent behavior is hotly denied by most in America. And yet we can all see clearly the negative effect on behavior caused in personal relationships when hatred and disrespect are expressed. It has to be a desire to maintain Freedom of Speech regardless of the circumstances, that is powering this apparent blind spot. I mean even the police are taught how to “de-escalate” situations – which means not reacting to hatred and disrespect. Thanks again for dropping by Susan – a pleasure to have you here.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I was sorry to read your exchange with Sirius as I respect you both. I could see both points of view.

    Sadly I have been out of the internet for a week – or not so sadly – so the latest happenings in America made no impact in Spain. Also, your first image perpetuates sexist images of cute little girls. Thought I’d add that while we are up for free speech. The second one is as bad. Cute black girls. Jeez Paul.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha! Welcome back roughseas! A pleasure to have you drop by and comment. The images – Bwahahaha! – my intention was to communicate safety and freedom for both white girls and black girls; the ability to release all worries and participate freely in whatever enjoyable activities are available. To be happy – and still tie into the “If we were having coffee” theme.

      I was surprised at Sirius’ response,but when I thought about it, I realized that he was in the majority not the minority. As you may have noticed even the owner of this blog agrees with him, and Mark is one of the most thoughtful, laid back, intelligent folks I know. The interesting part is when you broach the idea of hate speech causing violence to anyone non=American, they generally agree in principal. But Americans hold Freedom of Speech inviolable. I can see the advantages of this, especially if one does not trust their government, but I think the disadvantages are far greater. That being my opinion, of course.

      Thanks again roughseas for dropping by for a read and comment – much obliged.


      • Paul, thank you for your welcome.
        How images represent different aspects. To the oppressed and the oppressor. To me, I see cute little girls. Very, very sexist. You probably just see, cute little girls. If you aren’t up on feminism, then, we’ll pass on by.
        Some time ago, a former blogging friend suggested I wrote about hate speech. I drafted a post, but never finished it. Maybe one day. Originally our UK law was quite succinct. Years ago it was blasphemy or racial hatred. Now, it’s more vague.
        FWIW I did a tiny rant on SB’s free speech page.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah, that is a super touchy subject. The young girls were just meant to represent freedom and joy – nothing more.

        I’ll pop over to the “anything” page and take a look. Thanks so much.


  5. Without commenting on the subject of either of the posts, I’m curious as to why Sirius accepted and published a post that was not within the confines of the intended blog? As you know, I make my guest posters submit drafts to me, and as you also know, I do sometimes turn down guest posts (even yours). Seems like that would avoid the kind of negative comment train I just read over on Sirius’s site. (And kudos to Mark for being so much braver than I am.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Freedom of Speech – he’s a lawyer and I doubt he would profess one thing and do another. If he preaches Freedom of Speech , then one feels at least a modicum of allowing Freedom of Speech would be evident. It is the honest thing to do.

      It was just the comments that got confrontational – Sirius wrote the blog post himself. He could have easily deleted the unwanted comments but that is not his style – he is honest and he speaks and acts what he believes.

      I’ve never guest posted on his site – our opinions are too divergent on many matters and I have never seen him have a guest poster. I enjoy his perspective because it makes me think – and the conversations are also though=provoking.


      • Your visit and comments were greatly appreciated CM – I am honored that you came to visit. Please come back again..


      • Okay, I have to respond to this.

        You could have posted this rant on my site, Paul. I really don’t have anything personal against you. I also understand that the subject of free speech and hate speech is very important to you. And yes, I reacted strongly to your comments. For that, I do apologize. It wasn’t my intent to silence you or to belittle your views; I was actually getting keyed up about something else.

        I did so because my post was more about encouraging people to do more than just complain on the Internet. That’s not something I communicated yesterday. If I could put it in a nutshell, I’d say that the hate speech issue is something that’s harder to change than registering to vote and contacting lawmakers.

        For me, I was watching a post of mine that I felt strongly about get hijacked into a direction that was going to be fruitless. I know that wasn’t your intent, but it was happening all the same. I just can’t stress enough that I’d like to see more people doing more than going onto Facebook and cussing at people over this. Facebook or Twitter or even here on blogs aren’t going to lower shootings.

        Bottom line is that I don’t think that the concept of lowering hate speech is bs. While it’s an important conversation to have, I didn’t want it to take over the conversation I was trying to have.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks for sharing that SB. I accept your apology for reacting strongly. I apologize for taking the conversation down a dead end, given your intentions in writing it. It didn’t occur to me that my suggestion was contrary to your intention. I looked at the differences between our two societies and wrote about what amounted to a difference in legislation. To me that is an easier change than changing an attitude (i.e. faith in the second amendment). I agree with you that action is needed – however that is not an option for me as I am not an American. All I can do is make suggestions as to what actions might improve the situation. I shall be more sensitive in the future. Thanks so much for dropping by for a read and comment. I am honored.


  6. Paul, for what it’s worth, I think you’re right and that your comment on Sirius’s post was on point. IN fact, HE misses the point. It’s not just guns, it’s guns + hate + lack of understanding + hate speech + a million other things that have gotten us to where we are now. It’s complicated.

    We Americans are pretty tied up in our constitution. And mostly it has served us well. But like other forms of governments, it is imperfect and fallible.

    The rights to freedom of speech these days are under lots of threats by folks who think that you can say anything you want as long as you agree with me. Freedom of religion is under threat by folks who feel you can worship any god as long as it is the Christian god. And of course, your right to bear arms allows you to own and maintain everything up to a suitcase nuke.

    But in my opinion, spoken as a white, upper middle class woman, I see the problem with free speech now is that we have lost our filtering mechanisms. In a growing number of circles, it is now deemed “politically correct” to address members other ethnic groups politely, respectfully. While we all have our prejudices, in today’s world there are multiple opportunities to act on those prejudices, areas where we can anonymously be racist, hateful. And that makes it easier to do so to someone’s face, and to find groups of like-minded folks who will band together and celebrate their racism. Our current break down of or unwillingness to use the filters we’ve developed over many years of trying to get along better, has led us to where we are. Racism, like ignorance, is celebrated.

    Liked by 1 person

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