Tuesday, January 11, 2011

My Rights Under The First Amendment

“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.”

Ah the First Amendment. 220 years ago, when ¾ of the states ratified the Bill of Rights as Constitutional Amendments, do you think they ever envisioned Twitter, Facebook, Bloggers and message boards? Do you think they ever imagined that there would be a plethora of “unnamed sources” that would be driving our media? That the lives of private citizens would be invaded by paparazzi, cell phones and digital cameras? Do you think it ever crossed their minds that people would actually picket the funerals of fallen soldiers and innocent children to further their hate filled agendas?

As our ability to communicate has increased via the internet, our level of civility as a society has decreased exponentially. One merely has to visit online articles and read the comments – no subject is off limits, the comments will be taken over by people posting the most hateful and hurtful things under the guise of anonymity and all in the name of free speech. And heaven forbid anyone offer a differing opinion, or point out the flaws in their thought process. They will be jumped all over – those same people taking away THEIR right to freedom of speech. The sad reality is there are actually people sitting in their homes, day after day, searching out articles merely to call someone a name, to post a rumor, to belittle another human being or to ridicule those who are hurt, in mourning or in emotional turmoil. Bigotry and hatred are as old as time, but with the advent of the internet it seems more prevalent. It has seeped into every crevice of our society. What has happened to us?

Is there a way out of this downward spiral? As we experience societal changes, should our elected officials periodically review our First Amendment rights and alter them to keep up with these changes? Is there a way for them to do so and keep the original intent of the First Amendment intact? Or is this a societal issue? Do “we” need to all put our collective foot down and say enough is enough? Will the change only occur when the voices of many are raised in outrage?

With these rights come certain responsibilities. Should we be holding accountable those who choose to demean, to hate, to incite? Does one individual’s right to free speech circumvent the rights of others to live their lives free from fear, with dignity and a certain semblance of privacy?

I wish I knew the answers.


musicfan123 said...

What a thought-provoking article. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

Hatred is a sickness that affects both the hater and the victim. It eats them up!!

I wish I knew what to do. Of course, the first thing is to make sure that we are not a part of the problem and to stand up to those who hate. Not always an easy thing to do!!

Thank you again Sue for making us think!!

katy said...

You said, "our level of civility as a society has decreased exponentially". This is sadly so true. Hard to believe the hatred out there today.

jbc4clay said...

Great blog!
It is so sad that this day and time that there is so much hatred in the world. You are so right about the internet. Much of the hate is formed behind a monitor and through a keyboard.

Anonymous said...

I agree that the founders of our constitution could never have envisioned our world today. There is a difference between an opinion upon a subject and spewing fabricated lies and hostility. Perhaps they should have written clauses with consequences for baseless slander and hate. The first amendment was written to prevent oppression and enable dissent. It was not written to ensure that people could purposefully hurt others without repercussion.

Could the issue be that we as a society have lost our will to become involved? We see wrong and shake our heads. We complain, yet do little. Could it be that even though we are more "connected" than at any time in history, we have forgotten how to "connect" with each other to be heard and inspire change.

clayitagain said...

Great Blog Sue..

As much as we are all entitled to our Freedom of Speech, unfortunately today, there is a cancerous breed out there that thrive on spewing lies and hatred, and trying to make it Fact....

$$$ The almighty dollar!! Oh yes...Write a blog about lies, deception, anything to get people to log in. The more hits...the more money...doesn't matter if it is made up, doesn't matter if it slanders someone. Who cares..right? It's a fact that companies hire people to be downright nasty, and to comment on articles...for hits..

There use to be a time if you told lies you could be called out for "Defamation of Character"...and be accountable for your words. You could be charged. Today...it's a free cycle of saying whatever you want, and getting away with it.

The time has come for a change. Something really needs to be done, but the big question is: What?

Look at Twitter...you can say someone is somewhere, even if they are not...and it is across the world, as if it is fact..when it is not... It's really scary.

tnmtmama said...

Very thoughtful blog, Sue. However, just what are the consequences of a government takeover of the internet and free speech? Is it really worth it to have your thoughts and words monitored by the government? Who controls the limits of government monitoring and the boundaries of what you can and can't say on the internet? As reasonable adults, do any of us feel that we need to have our words and opinions monitored by other adults? because, you know, WE would ALL fall under that control, not just the ones we don't like.

Carolina Clay said...


Excellent blog and discussion by your readers on such an important topic! I would add "microphone" to jbc4clay's statement that much hatred is formed behind a monitor and a keyboard.

Everyone needs to be aware how much our words and actions can influence an already sick mind. Checkpoints or stopgaps that monitor potentially grave consequences need to be utilized.

Thank you for making us think. Thank you, too, for your kind remarks in the Carolina blog.


gerra said...

Wonderful, thought provoking blog. I've enjoyed reading everyone's comments, as well.

claysweetea said...

Wonderful thought-provoking blog, and the comments are all very worth reading.

zanyforclay said...

Great blog, Sue, and I sure do wish we had all the answers. Our forefathers would certainly be shocked at the extremes to which this amendment has been taken.

Although I would not like to see government watching over our shoulders and monitoring every word we said, I do think there is too much apathy and acceptance of words and deeds certainly not meant to be permitted by the First Amendment. My personal opinion is that the further religion and discipline get pushed into the background, the worse the problem becomes.

invisibleclay said...

Sue, this is a wonderful blog, and so true!

ImGranny said...

What a great blog and great comments too. While I am all for free speech, I think there are limits to this privilege. When this amendment was written, it was in a different age and time. I think if it were to be written today, it would be written differently.

Those are my thoughts, but I feel sure there are others that feel much differently. This is a real tough situation and seems to be getting worse all the time. Something needs to be done to turn this around somehow - but what?

claniac24 said...

Marvelous blog, SueRue. Until I saw your name at the bottom, I thought it was written by a professional writer, it covered the issue so brilliantly. Thanks so much for offering us your insight. You have it SO right!