This past week, I took a trip with a friend and my friend’s mom. She’s an international human rights lawyer–basically, she has my dream job. I don’t travel a lot (or ever, really) so we went to walk around the city. As we were crossing the street a bright blue van turned the corner. The van had words painted on it, such wonderful platitudes as “The end of days is coming!” or “The blood of Christ will save us all” and my personal favorite “Repent and secure your place in the sky.” On top of the van there were two speakers, one facing forward and one facing behind the van, and the man inside the van was talking through a microphone and broadcasting to the population. In what I found to be a hilariously deadpan voice, the guy said stuff likr “We all must repent. The blood of Christ will save us all. Rescue your soul from damnation before it’s too late,” over and over and over again. He wasn’t an agent of any church–he didn’t have pamphlets to hand out and he wasn’t even stopping to engage in conversation. He was just spreading what was (to him, at least!) the honest truth.
My friend and I were making fun of the guy, saying how ridiculous it was that he was even bothering. It’s not like people were stopping in their tracks, hit by some glorious epiphany upon realizing had to save their souls. Nah–people were just joking about the sheer weirdness of it all and then going about their business.
But my friend’s mom turned to me and said “You know, it’s really amazing that we can live in such a free country. Some of the people I’ve worked with come from countries where this type of proselytizing will get you tortured and killed. The fact that he even has the right to do this is something we take for granted.”
I’m not going to offer much commentary on the above quote–I think it pretty much speaks for itself. Needless to say, freedom of speech is not something I (or most in this country) consider to be a privilege. It’s easy to forget.