Discussion of Free Speech Has to Include a Mention of Boundaries

We can’t allow nefarious forces to oversimplify the concept of freedom

Walter Rhein
Bouncin’ and Behavin’ Blogs
6 min readJun 16, 2024

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Image by Walter Rhein — Painting by his daughter

I used to model the behavior of adults who said mean things to provoke a reaction. We called it, “Pushing buttons.” Then we’d laugh as if any objection was the only response that could be called “inappropriate.”

We made it into a game, but the rules were unclear and we forced people to play against their will. I’m not sure if this attitude was a result of my community or my family, but it was an awful way to behave.

We’d justify ourselves by saying, “We were just trying to get a rise out of you.” Or, “Can’t you take a joke?”

Today, there is a lot of talk about respecting other people’s boundaries. I’ve only recently realized that the game we used to play was designed to expose and weaken boundaries. We incessantly launched unprovoked salvos on our peaceful neighbors, and then we acted shocked if there was any objection or retaliation.

We encroached on boundaries because we wanted to see what we could get away with. We were the aggressors. Whether they admit it or not, anyone who doesn’t respect your boundaries is gathering information on how to exploit you.

We’ve all had our boundaries…

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Walter Rhein
Bouncin’ and Behavin’ Blogs

I have 10+ years experience as a certified English and Physics teacher. 20+ years of experience as an editor, journalist, blogger and novelist.