Free for all
I'm not sure why it would be incongruous. Patriotism isn't the exclusive preserve of the right wing or the religious. I'm not the "rah-rah" type, but it's natural that I have an attachment to my own country -- most people do. And there are some specific positives, such as the First Amendment, which means I don't have to walk on eggshells worrying about political correctness -- in Canada or some European countries, some of what I write about Islam might result in legal hassles.
He responded, in part:
All countries and nations have to find the middle ground between "Free Speech" and "Social Responsibility", it can never be a free for all. Again, it is always about striking the right balance. I would think that places like Canada and Europe all have a pretty good balance right now, but of course the specific laws related to this issue are always up for negotiations and fine tuning.
I'm sure any reader who understands the importance of free expression can imagine the effect of those words. We always need to remember that this mentality is out there, willing and even determined to curtail our freedom of expression on the grounds of "social responsibility" or some other nebulous excuse for shutting up the dissemination of viewpoints that they or some group they sympathize with find offensive. The dangers of this are very real and immediate. In Europe and Canada, people have actually been prosecuted and fined for expressing opinions. Not for making threats, not for outing private personal information, but for expressing opinions that some pearl-clutcher in a position of power decided were not "socially responsible".
People like this (and not all of them are conservatives) invariably assume that it's they and people like them who would get to decide which opinions, and which ways of expressing them, would be classified as "not socially responsible" (or "hate speech" or whatever). But once the principle of censorship on these grounds is accepted, then who gets to exercise that power, and "strike the right balance" on where the "middle ground" is, becomes a mere detail. If you accept it, then you really can't complain if you discover that it's someone like Mike Huckabee, or David Lane, or a bunch of giant corporations, who gets to define when your expression is no longer "socially responsible". You've already thrown away the only basis for a principled objection.
Freedom of expression is based on the idea that the proper response to bad speech is more speech. If every viewpoint can be expressed and people can hear all sides, the truth will eventually work its way to the top. No one -- not some judge in Europe, not the Pope, not you, not me, no one -- has the wisdom or the right to decide in advance that certain viewpoints simply shouldn't be expressed at all. It seems to be working. Opponents of gay marriage, for example, have been completely free to present their case in whatever way they choose, and have thus managed to demonstrate that they don't have one. It would have done no good to ban them from speaking -- quite the contrary. If I hear that someone has been prohibited from speaking out, my instinctive reaction is not "wow, that person's viewpoint must be really evil, good thing nobody's allowed to hear it," but "hmm, I wonder what he was going to say that made somebody so nervous that they decided no one should be allowed to hear it and make up their own minds." I suspect most people react the same.
Remember, expression that offends no one doesn't need any special protection in the first place because no one will try to ban it. The First Amendment exists purely for cases where someone believes a point of view shouldn't be allowed. Those are the only cases where it is needed at all.
I don't claim the American system is perfect. Threats, "doxxing" and similar have emerged as weapons with which malignant individuals (as opposed to the government) intimidate and censor views they don't like. From time to time I've noted cases of bloggers being silenced by such tactics. The First Amendment offers no protection there -- we are still working on developing other defenses. But by ruling out government censorship of expression, the First Amendment is a huge bulwark of freedom that people in most other countries, even most democracies, do not have.
And these protections have to apply to all views, to everyone. Andres Serrano, Pamela Geller, Charlie Hebdo, Michael Savage, Erick Erickson, Tony Perkins, Anjem Choudary, David Duke, the person who sent the e-mail above -- in defending the right of all of them to express their views as they see fit, I'm defending my own, and yours.