Quiet Enjoyment & Freedom of Speech

Today was supposed to be a day of “peace and quiet enjoyment”, an Amendment Right for those residing in community covered by the American Constitution the last time I checked.  Aside from the fact that it was a Sunday, any other day of the week might be considered as well, since peoples’ work schedules often require them to take off on other days of the week to rest and recover. I’m also an advocate for our ongoing right to Freedom of Speech, protected by the same foundational document of a government once envisioned as “of, by, and for the people”.  However, there have been times, recently, when examining the parameters of both of these rights has become unavoidable.

Today I’ll be specific. A certain sports bar, a block off the beach and adjacent to a normally civil neighborhood, repeated its obtrusive decibel levels of “music” broadcasting unchallenged obscenities. It was impossible to sit outside without being accosted by the reverb and offensive language.  This scenario had taken place on more than one Sunday afternoon, since Spring Break patrons started adding their expendable cash to a booming economy.  Quite frankly, I’d had enough.  It seemed extreme to call 911, but who else do you ask to intervene on a Sunday afternoon?  The tone of the gathering being broadcast was not a friendly one, and living in close proximity to the bar did not position me in a safe place to complain, as my aging mother had done, in person, at a greater risk because of her age. Their response to her request had been to callously turn UP the music.

Summarizing the result of my own call to ask for assistance, I was told by a young deputy, during a callback phone conversation a half hour later, that the establishment had been granted a permit to build the outdoor deck and host its venues.  He reported that after asking them to turn it down and stop putting offensive language out over the outdoor speakers, he’d sat in the parking lot for 20 minutes and heard nothing objectionable.  My only other recourse, it seemed, would be to file a complaint with the county code enforcement office on Monday.  I had already decided to submit a letter to the editor of the local paper and Florida Today, hoping it might gain the attention of other residents, who might be reluctant to speak up, since many are retired in their homes or have families to consider, so prefer avoiding conflict.

Obviously, I am not in that group yet, and would rather speak up than put up with party animals, who, in my opinion, need to take their disruptive celebrations back to the hoods from where they came.  (Having lived four decades in the Baltimore/Washington D.C. area, my tolerance for residential congestion, traffic, and hooligans is close to none, at this point in life. I did not move to Florida to live like a frightened mouse in an overcrowded cage, without a door of escape to saner habitats.)

At this point, I must confess, I‘m all for good, clean fun.  The sports bar was obviously trying to show its more fun-loving side when a foam machine produced massive billows of bubbles overflowing the deck behind the main building, allowing clumps of suds to float into surrounding residential areas.  (I dare say, if it had been a laundromat’s emissions, there would have been someone checking on environmental safety violations.)   I also dare to remind patrons:  If you can’t sing before drinking alcohol and being handed an open mic, you are not mysteriously enabled to sing on key or enunciate intelligible words.  Save your breath for the walk back to wherever you make your bed to recover from inebriation.  No one enjoys hearing someone sing off-key over a jacked-up speaker system, any day.

My question is this:  At what point does freedom of speech and entertainment become a violation of others’ rights to live peaceably and enjoy the quiet of their homes and natural habitats?  If attracting and catering to those who prefer raucous gatherings means disregarding the needs of others who reside in a community, and if allowing this sort of disrespectful sensationalism to be casually considered an acceptable by-product of attracting tourism, I would question the integrity of those endorsing this kind of “economic development”.

As the Brevard county region of Florida continues to experience growth, let’s not lose site of the need to keep those taking advantage of its benefits in check, not just relating to wildlife and recycling, but also to the protect ion of places many call “Home”.  Entertainment does not need to be intrusive or violate ethical codes of decency to be valuable and restorative.  Rocket launches and air shows provide enough overhead acoustics, without the pollution of bad music and loud parties near residential areas.

(Also submitted to Hometown News and Florida Today as  a “Letter to the Editor”.)

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