A window is open and one can hear the casual conversation taking place inside. You lean in, listening carefully, hanging on every word. The people are speaking and you want to understand what they are saying, what they mean by what they say. They are speaking freely, thinking no one hears them. They are engaged in what they believe to be free speech, therefore, they talk openly, without restraint to either words or thoughts.
These are a lot like the usual mutterings you hear every day, at any given time. But what happens when speech is not casual or when someone deems what we say to be “inappropriate? Or worse, politically inappropriate? Few things as offensive as “shut up” or “don’t talk like that.”
In response to a challenge to your right to speak freely, have you ever needed to say to someone, “It’s my First Amendment right to speak freely?”
The actual intent of the First Amendment is to protect limitations the Federal Government might put on what you can say, how you can say it, and where you can say it. The First Amendment protects you from criticizing the government, and from political overreach or censorship. The Founders understood that powerful governments often try to stifle our freedom to speak.
What it all Really Means, or Should
The First Amendment states; “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”.
This is not a mere suggestion. Nor is it something to be negotiated. It’s not up for grabs, debate, consideration, or modification. It is written plainly and it has stood the test of time, courts, and political challenges.
Without this First Amendment, there is no telling which way the Republic might have gone. Without it, we might have ended up with an oppressive government that operates unchallenged by individual voices and a free press.
Free speech serves as a check on the tyranny of oppressive government. Voices in the marketplace of ideas can and should all be heard so that “we the people” can reasonably understand what our government is doing right, and yes, wrong. This is what the First Amendment means, or should mean.
Today, our freedom of speech is quite clearly under attack. Across all walks of Ameican life, free speech is under assault. Political correctness is negating our right to speak openly and freely. Every day, across multiple social media platforms people are being censored, account suspended, and speech halted.
The common excuse used for social media censorship is that platforms like Facebook and Twitter are private forums, subject to the terms and conditions set forth by their respective owners. But we wonder, is this simply a tool for tyranny, a way to objectify and rationalize the control of speech these platforms deem offensive or inappropriate.
Who’s Looking out for our Words
Beyond protections from Federal involvement, exists, Article 19 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
Oddly enough, throughout most of the world’s governments, this declaration is universally accepted as a global standard. Did you know that the United States is the only nation to object to ratifying Article 19?
Increasingly, there is widespread acceptance of the notion that some speech and some opinions ought to be suppressed in the interest of the people. Some speech is to be hated and expunged, in favor of more acceptable, global ideas that appeal to the masses. We call this censorship, or at least we used to.
Today, free speech oppression is commonplace. Independent thought and expression, the idea of holding your own opinions can result in immediate censorship by means of banning you from channels of expression. Kicking you off Twitter and Facebook for saying things people don’t want to hear is a commonplace occurrence. This is especially true of expressions of constitutionally based opinions. Dogmatic propositions about absolutes, American exceptionalism, immigration, and traditional standards for marriage and sex can get your banned for life!
The notion of controlling our speech is a form of controlling our thought. Thoughts are expressed in spoken and printed words, primarily. Where this is all going is still the subject of debate, but could this thought and speech control find its way into the higher levels of society, academics and law? It already is!
A World Without Words
Seemingly, the First Amendment covers most bases. Could we, or should we, implore the ratifying of Article 19 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights? Or, is the First Amendment still regarded as the gold standard for free speech in America? Why would we be required to supplant our own constitutional right to free speech with a global right that could be replaced tomorrow?
The next question to be asked and answered has to do with reliance. How much do you trust your government to restrain itself from the temptation of exploring the speech tyranny? It appears the government, at least in some instances, is willing to allow social media channels to limit our free speech. There is growing political cowardice emanating from Washington, DC.
Has the federal government, by turning its head, become complicit in controlling our individual and collective speech? The framers of the Constitution brought us to the present day as safely and as expeditiously, as possible. Now we must do our part to ensure free speech is not infringed by political or corporate forces. At every turn, it’s our duty as free people to insist that the First Amendment remains not only relevant but the absolute guide to free speech, everywhere and at all times.
If I did not have the Bill of Rights the writing and delivery of this very article might be in peril. For today, I’m safe…I’m free…I’m able to write my thoughts freely. That’s a glorious right, one that I am willing to defend.
Knowing and understanding the weight of our First Amendment freedom will essentially keep us a free people. Your and my freedoms come before all else, and without them, we are no different than the world of tyrants and evil governments; no different than Communism and its toxic policies of national speech and mind control.
Any practice or policy of the government that does not further enhance, protect, or align with our free speech rights should be deemed unconstitutional, even un-American.
The only truly free person is a vocal person, one who remains, uninhibited, and unafraid to speak.
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