Nothing signals the death of critical thinking in this country more than the attack on free speech.

The First Amendment, which was literally the first Amendment for a reason. Nothing is more essential or critical to a functioning republic. Nothing.

If people are not free and comfortable to say what they’re thinking, we cannot sustain a free nation. Without the freedom to say what we think and what we believe, we are effectively censored.

If we are censored, that means the government (or media) can control the information we’re given and, more importantly, the information we’re not given. Information is critical to personal, community, and state decision-making.

People who are paying attention repeatedly hear about the assault on free speech on our college campuses, and with cancel culture taking root, there’s almost as much assault on individual citizens who happen to say, think, or write the wrong thing to the wrong person at the wrong time.

It is the minority who believe free speech is harmful. They believe the First Amendment should be repealed. They believe in hate speech. They believe in the right to not be offended.

But ironically, the First Amendment exists to protect the minority.

The Founders foresaw how a majority or strong minority could quickly create an environment in which people who’s views didn’t align with the government of the time were afraid to speak their mind. This environment cannot stand. Everyone should feel safe in speaking their mind, regardless of what they say or believe.

Too often in history, people have witnessed the imprisonment of those who spoke against the government or who shared unpopular ideas. The Framers understood this and built this into our Constitution, front and center.

And now, people who don’t believe they have to defend their ideas (or who can’t), the same people who believe they are morally superior, want to shut down or censor anyone with a differing point of view.

We’re seeing what this looks like right before our eyes. Twitter and Facebook are routinely suspending or removing conservative thought. The media is a 24-hour assault on conservatives. Conservatives and Trump supporters are routinely assaulted anytime BLM or Antifa are around. People lose jobs if they’re associated with the right.

It’s a dangerous road we’re careening down right now for reasons already articulated. But what surprises or disappoints me the most is that the very people attacking freedom of speech can’t see how quickly or easily this could turn on them. They’re either too short-sighted or egotistical to think they could ever be on the wrong end.

Unfortunately, history is full of examples of where the tide turns and the aggressors end up on defense.

Freedom of speech isn’t there for conservatives, or for Trump supporters. It’s there for everyone. It’s for liberals, anarchists, conservatives, racists, homophobes, bigots, priests, clergy, government officials, and everyone in the United States.

Right now, we don’t agree on much. But one thing is we should all be able to agree on is the right to speak our minds and say what we think.

Anyone has, and should have, the right to speak out against free speech and to make their case. But anyone physically standing against, or infringing upon, freedom of speech should be treated as hostile to the United States and dealt with accordingly.