Friday, May 1, 2009

The First Amendment And The Guarantee Of Freedom

If you are someone you works directly with the public, as I do in my other life, one of the first things you learn is that people like to hear their own name, be recognized and talked about. We each learn to seek and appreciate validation from infancy and every parent knows the power of positive re-enforcement. As social creatures, we may crow about individuality, but it is group approval that we seek.

At the same time, we are individuals, each with different beliefs, opinions and values. Open societies thrive and grow from the free exchange of ideas, the possibility of the “other”. But for the free exchange to meet it’s potential there must be rules. Otherwise, the loudest voice or biggest stick determines what can, or cannot be expressed.

Our forefathers had the wisdom to write the freedom of expression in to our Constitution. In fact, it is guaranteed under our very first amendment. Every citizen in this country has the right to express their opinion, their “self” even when that expression is unpopular . This right sets us above and apart from much of the world, including our enlightened brethren in Europe and Canada.

This in turn, opens the door for small people who would use this freedom not to advance thought or provoke conversation, but to harm others. Supreme Court Justice Scalia, ever the target of small people, recently experienced just such an attack first hand. Don Surber relates how Justice handled the attack, how he stood up for the First Amendment and why he is an excellent example of a true patriot and a good man.

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