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Freedom of Speech - First Amendment

Updated on October 19, 2018
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Jack is currently a volunteer at the Westchester County Archives. Before retiring, he worked at IBM for over 28 years.

Introduction

The Constitution is what has guided us for over 200 years. It is a profound document. The Bill of Rights is central to the Constitution and it is the first 10 Amendments to the Constitution. The founding fsthers debated and made sure this was included so that the thirteen States would ratified and passed it as our contract between the people and its government.

This article focus on the Freedom of Speech, part of the First Amendment. It is the first because without it, we have no chance of surviving as a democracy.

- Oct. 2018

Background

What makes America exceptional?

If there is one answer over above all others, it would have to be our Constitution. And the First Amendment would be right behind. No time, in the history of the world has this been done. You can say it was an experiment in self government. It worked above all expectations. We are the freest nation and most affluent and most generous and most righteous as a result. That is not a brag but the truth.

Since when an individual can voice his or her opinion freely without fear of retribution or harm or even lost of life. In many parts of the world today, that is still the norm. We have the First Amendment to protect individuals who may have opinions that are of the minority. It may be unpopular. It may be offensive to some. Never the less, it is protected by our government. It is our insurance policy that no government can take the right to dissent away from the people. The government works for us the people. In most other forms of government, the government is the law and ruled by dictators or kings or an elite class.

Where Do You Draw The Line?

Given the First Amendment, freedom of speech..., over the years, the Supreme Court has ruled on the limits of this right. No right is absolute. For example, the freedom of speech does not allow a person to yell “fire” in a crowded theater falsely. This is just common sense. When the safetu of people are involved, speech needs to be constrained. The same goes for people calling for violence such as a mob. This was the case in the old West where cattle rustlers were lynched by a mob without due process.

Where do you draw the line? Over the years, the Supreme court has made seceral interpretations of this right. They have expanded the right to include burning of the flag. During the Vietnam war, many dissidents chose to oppose the war as unjust by burning the America Flag. The court as ruled this to be a protected freedom of expression though not verbal speech. As long as it is done peacefully, it is protected by our government.

The Eye of The Beholder

It has come to pass that in 2018, the line between confrontational speech and hate speech is blurred. Some people are sensitive to various personal attacks and cannot accept them. It has come to the point that our college campuses have instituted “free speech zone” in order to maintain some civility. To me, this is not the right way to go. Our college campus should be open to debate of controversial subjects. It is the ideal place for people to learn, to share ideas, to debate issues and to reach some common ground when possible. After all, these are the most educated among us. They have the intellect and the knowledge of our history to guide them.

Why Is This Important?

In social media sites like FaceBook and other applications such as google search engine, the freedom of speech is under siege. These groups, mostly liberal progressives, have a strong hold on information. They seems to think they are the gate keeper of civility. They are using their power and influence to affect public opinion. Even in elections, they can influence the results in very subtle ways.

Here on HubPages, a public publishing platform, we are given the freedom of expression through our words. There is a guideline and user agreement that all members are asked to sign. It is a fair system where everyone is given equal and free access. People are free to write articles, post comments and participate in user forums on all sorts of topic of interest. My experience here is positive. For a large arena like this, it is hard to maintain a standard. Once in a while, we get trolls and spam but for the most part, it is pretty good. The debates among hubbers are usually civil and based on conflicting ideas and not personal attacks. This is exactly what the first Amendment was intended. As long as we are not out to hurt someone, call to violence, we are given pretty free reign on debates. This is the only way we can air our difference and let the reader decide. It is the democratic way.

Summary

Some people say you should never talk about politics or religion among your friends or relatives. I disagree. If you don’t talk about it, how can we ever make progress, our at least reach some common ground. We are a divided country right now. The media is not helping but almost inciting dissent. When their party is out of power, they are using their influence in a noncivil way. Unfortunately, the Americsn public is their target and victim.

My advice to all is to ignore these media outlets. They are a dying breed. The internet has leveled the news information playing field. Anyone, with a little time and patience, can get at the truth without the filter of the media.

© 2018 Jack Lee

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