Wednesday, July 16, 2008

First Amendment. Good-Bye.

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.

Hope you recognized that. It is the first amendment. Commonly thought of as the right to free speech. In the grocery store, two men were talking. One of them turned to me and said, "Excuse me Sir. Is the first amendment the one that is about free speech?"
"Yes it is." I answered.
I felt a little dumb. I knew there was more to it than free speech so I went home and googled it. Sure enough, there is indeed a lot more to it.

-The government cannot legally tell you to belong to any religion and it cannot legally tell you to not belong to a religion.
Seems straightforward enough. The idea, so we have been told in the writings of those who crafted the constitution, was to keep religion separate from government. Remember, these were people from Europe. They had seen what hundreds of years of religious dispute could do. They also thought anyone should be free to worship as they please. Today, we have the office of faith based initiatives. Religion in government. Any time anyone asks me what is so bad about faith and politics mixing I point to two events every Christian, Jew and Muslim believes happened.
1. The crucifixion of Jesus.
2. 9/11
So we lost that part of the first amendment already.

-It then goes on to tell us we have the rights as Americans to say what we want, that the press is free from propaganda, and we can gather in groups for whatever causes we believe in.
Well, you pretty much can say what you want. Thats what the Internet is for. It is also a very easy way for "them" to keep track of "us." It's not like we lost the right to free speech, we have just lost privacy. But thats the fourth amendment. It got killed when the president started telling congress he could wiretap anyone he deemed needed wiretapping and didn't have to tell a court, a judge or congress what and why he was doing it.
But I digress.
The press, under the careful yet sometimes ham fisted control of Bush, got lazy. They took what the White House said at face value and didn't ask the follow up questions they should have. Intimidation, no comment, lies and half truths pushed the story the way the administration wanted it told.
Under Bush, conservative radio hosts were paid by the department of education to say how good they thought Bush was doing with education in Black Communities. Retired generals hired by the TV news to be "experts" were given Intel by the Pentagon they wished to disseminate.
In other words, the free press became a tool of the government to tell the story the way they wanted. You can't trust anything in the mainstream media as impartial and you can't trust anything on the Internet as fact.
Anyone who has been to a protest in the last ten years knows that you cannot simply demonstrate in front of the leader who is there to speak. The police set up what is called, free speech zones. These are small caged areas out of view of any of the intended targets of the protesters.
A free press and the right to peaceably assemble; gone.
Whats left? The right to petition the government with redress to grievances. Yup. You can still write a letter that starts out, You Bastards!
We still have that America. You can still send an e-mail to an elected official.

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