By Gary McCollum/Opinion
Let’s talk about our first amendment rights for a minute. Everyone knows we have a first amendment right to the freedom of speech, or I assume everyone does.
First let us discover what REALLY is the first Amendment, it reads: “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.
First, Congress cannot establish a national religion or prevent citizens of the United States from practicing their faith. That would include going to church, reading whichever text that pertains to your religion. Worshiping God as you please and as your religion dictates. As this was put in the very first sentence of the first amendment, our founding fathers felt very strongly about this. (Quick question: Have you seen a violation of this to some degree recently?)
Now on to the press. They have the freedom of the press and that my friends were intended to help be the fourth arm of our government. It keeps or is supposed to be able to hold our politicians/representatives of the people to a high standard. I really wish in my heart that the mainstream media would get back to the old lessons I was taught when reporting on a story. “Who, What, When, Where, and Why.
Today’s 24 hour news cycle is inundated with more opinion that is reported as fact, hundreds of reports using unnamed sources, and let’s be honest just lies to try and make a headline or a storyline that fits a narrative and makes it more exciting. The Freedom of the press does extend to citizen journalists who frequently resort to social media to do their own reporting, be it a blog, a post, even a “MEME”, which brings us to a further discussion in just a bit.
Next it tells us that there is NO abridging of the freedom of speech. You can say what you want. (there are limits, no you cannot yell fire in a crowded theatre for instance) It seems simple. We as Americans have the right to say what we want. Great discussions have been started this way. We can question our government, be it local, state or even national.
Do we really have free speech? The first amendment says we do, but as you may have seen recently it can be quite complex. For instance, if you want to post something on a social media platform and “THE OWNERS” of the many platforms deem you have violated one of their many policies; they can ban your post, cover your post with fact checking (that is usually one sided and sometimes incorrect itself), they can restrict your ability to post for a time, or even ban you completely from their platforms. Being a privately or publicly held platform used as a money-making entity. They do have the right to edit/moderate the content on their sites as they must protect their services and of course , you, as a user has signed but I highly doubt many have read the user agreements. There have been many arguments on how social media should be regulated. Some wish them to have greater authority to remove content they deem offensive or harmful, while others argue there should be limited editing at all. I can tell you as a lay person, those arguments go well and beyond me. I predict these arguments will continue to go on regarding the first amendment on social media platforms for a long time to come.
Many Americans distrust the mainstream media outlets and frequently turn to social media for their news. I have learned about many news stories from social media long before they were carried on local news media. Even the media can censor you should they not like your opinion or what you are saying, should it not fit the narrative that they are trying to convey. Yes, in case you did not realize it, the media in all forms, in our nation has become a mistrusted source of information. You should question all stories and do additional research.
And finally, the first amendment guarantees the citizens the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. I fully support this section of the first amendment as well as the others. It does not allow the protestors to infringe upon other’s rights including their rights to the first amendment. To often of late we have seen protestors that have passion, carry those passions to rioting. No where in the first amendment does it grant one permission to destroy personal property, assault individuals, deface or threaten another. In fact: threatening a person with violence or intimidation to their political views is classified as terrorism.
We have seen protests, rioting, and yes domestic terrorism going on nationally. I find much of this very disturbing. While many make excuses saying these are oppressed peoples fighting for their rights, or young people with passion and it is just getting a little out of control, I disagree.
Have you ever heard the phrase “If you forget history you are bound to repeat it?”
Recently we have seen the new term being touted as the “Cancel Culture” I am offering no opinions on the items being removed, but I do remember my history lessons and find it disturbing. Let me offer you a few points to ponder.
In the 1930’s there were massive book burnings. The books targeted for burning were those viewed as being subversive or as representing ideologies opposed to by a political party. The books being burned were viewed as being politically incorrect, subversive, offensive to the ideology of the group supporting it. The books were written by pacifists, religious, liberal, sexologists, anarchists, socialists, and communists.
On April 8, 1933, the Main Office for Press and propaganda of the Student Union proclaimed a nationwide “Action against the Politically incorrect Spirit”, which was to climax in a literary purge or “cleansing” by fire.
This was in Nazi Germany.
This can never happen in the United States of America.
I say it already is. Canceling television shows including cartoons for children. When the Nazi party invaded France, they stole artwork deemed as precious and valuable and kept it for themselves. They destroyed the paintings, statues, and artwork they felt were politically incorrect. (they did melt down the statures for the value of their metal for the war effort)
We have protested and the protests have been heard. The government is addressing your grievances. I expect to see some retraining, some community outreach, and hopefully other programs that I am unaware of. I personally would like to see “Officer Friendly” return to our elementary schools.
We must be careful, there is a war on police that is unjustified. Yes, there are probably 1 in 200 police that have a dark heart. Society cannot paint them with the broad brush that has tainted others. Just because you received bad service at one restaurant does not make all servers bad. I support the blue line that allows me to sleep peacefully at night. I support the officers who were bullet proof vests every day, that they now are almost casual attire. I am not going to change your preconceived notions, but I pray you will open your hearts and think about who guards that small line between violence and peace for you.
This of course is just my personal thoughts, yours may differ. I for one am glad we have the first amendment and we can have this discourse.
Gary A. McCollum