In Defense of the 1st Amendment

The most important words ever codified into law are these:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

With these few words, the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, the right of all Americans to participate in their government, the right to not only speak and write without fear of persecution or censorship but also the right to read and listen to these opinions was, once and for all, made the law of the land.

The importance and power of these words can never be overstated. Every petty little group of hateful control freaks, every narrow-minded, intolerant, vengeful bigot this nation has seen have tried to sidestep the freedom that these words provide to every American. Our right to read what we choose, to speak out against the wrongs within the nation is what keeps these creatures from dragging our nation down to their level.

When our founding fathers wrote their pamphlets demanding an end to "taxation without representation", when they met to form the Continental Congress, when these first citizens wrote about the self-important, self-centered despots whose power derived from lies and corruption , whenever these patriots attempted to speak out against the tyranny of rule by intimidation, those in power tried again and again to silence them. The thing most feared by those who attempt to dominate through the abuse of their power is the right of the American people to freely speak out against them. The power that these few words confer on the American people has, many times, been all that stood between our beloved freedom and the totalitarian state so desired by far too many, even today.

We have all heard about the book burning and censorship that the nation's ill taught and spiteful puritans have tried so very hard to compel upon America. We have all heard about the discussions regarding what the "Moral Majority" (which is neither) deigns to allow the rest of us to see and read and listen to and simply talk about. We've all heard from those whose hatred of any differing opinion causes them to go into rants of vindictive distortion. Shoot, the radio is full of the venom these buffoons spew.

Even our Congress and President are not immune to the disease of censorship and are again attempting to keep information or images from your eyes and ears that their small minded beliefs pronounce "wicked" for you. The so-called "Decency in Telecommunications Act" is a very hollow and transparent attempt to force the morals of very immoral people on the citizens of this nation. Politicians and lobbyists for the far right, without even the acumen to use the internet for communication (e-mail), pose as people with the competence to now tell you what you can and cannot learn through the vast library that is the internet. These morally bankrupt individuals plan to block any World Wide Web sites that they believe may "corrupt" our children.

Well, gentle readers, Hitler convinced the German people that he knew what was best for them and held massive book burnings to prove it. Soon, anyone who dared oppose or speak out against his lies and the horrors that his leadership entailed were censored and eventually simply murdered to silence all dissenting voices. Stalin, Mao, even the corrupt and bigoted school boards and religious fanatics in the Deep South of the 50's and 60's and into the 90's have attempted to block the truths that make them uncomfortable

I can only speak for myself, of course, but I prefer to make my own decisions about what I and my family see and learn. I refuse to allow some small minded fanatic to make moral decisions for me or my family in what is right or wrong in this world, particularly since most of what is wrong is caused by this same small minded fanaticism. I believe it is not only the right but the duty of every American to make those decisions for themselves and only the lazy or the terminally gullible who will even consider allowing others to force these choices upon them.

Too many of our finest young men have died to protect the value of that document, the First Amendment especially. Too much innocent blood has been spilled to insure that each of us will continue to have the right to speak, to write, to listen and to think for ourselves. We must constantly stand guard against those who would violate the rights of those who would oppose the policies and actions of those in power because the loss of your rights always begins with the rights of those whom you may not much like, in the first place. Remember; when they came for the Jews I looked away and didn't care. When they came for the gypsies, I looked away and didn't care. When they came for me, there was no one left to care.

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Copyright 5/28/97