Introducing FIRE Summer Intern Rachel Cheeseman
June 15, 2011
by Jaclyn Hall
Rachel Cheeseman is a rising senior from DePauw University, where she is a member of the Media Fellows Honors Program majoring in biology and political science. She is currently managing editor of The DePauw, the campus newspaper, and received a grant from the university to work as a political reporter for Oregon Capitol News, a news website based in Portland, Oregon. Rachel is also cultural chair of the Alpha chapter of Alpha Chi Omega sorority and has served as a Resident Assistant for two years. On why she came to FIRE, Rachel writes:
While the First Amendment and the Bill of Rights are certainly components of America's history, I am not here to defend a document or its symbolic importance. What attracts me to FIRE's mission primarily is the defense of the philosophies and principles that form their foundation, namely that we are all able to lead fuller, more satisfying lives when we aren't living in fear of arbitrary authority. Everyone should be able to live without that burden, particularly when it comes to something as personal and intimate as our values, ideas and beliefs.
Throughout my life, I have made the greatest effort to be a tolerant and patient individual. To insult the ideas of others was unacceptable; to refuse to hear them (let alone attempt to prohibit them) was simply inconceivable. It would be inhuman to refuse to accept that others would disagree as rational individuals with differing values and experiences rather than simply out of flawed logic. Furthermore, flawed logic as I see it should be challenged to promote discourse, not silenced, which would promote nothing.
You might say I'm a solid case study for one of J. S. Mill's foundational arguments for free speech. Through the clashing of my opinions with those of others, I have discovered which values and principles mean the most to me, and in many cases, those same clashes have helped me define what those values and principles meant to me at all. I couldn't put it any better than Mill did—my freedom to disagree with others and their freedom to disagree with me has been instrumental in my personal development on an intellectual and spiritual level. I have never discovered truth on the first try, but uncovered it bit by bit with the help of others who have, whether in agreement or disagreement, shown me all to which I am committed.
Truth, Mill, the Founders and the Constitution aside, freedom of expression and freedom of conscience are what make us individuals rather than creatures of imposed instinct. When an attempt is made to cut off conscience or expression of any kind, we are denied not only our right to be ourselves, but also our right to become ourselves. There is nothing more destitute of compassion, empathy, humility or humanity than to say "you don't deserve your own thought." I'm fighting for a fundamental human right—to be and believe—and the exercise that allows one to become the other.