How many people fully understand the First Amendment?
I am beginning to believe the number is smaller than I had ever imagined.
In fact, on YouTube, the video-sharing Web site, there is a video that tackles this exact question.
The video is titled “First Amendment Man Fights Freedumb,” and it depicts a man dressed as a Constitutional document walking around Northwestern University in Chicago asking students about the First Amendment. (I mentioned the video here.)
No one in the video could name all five rights the First Amendment promises us.
Can you? They are very important and are the basis of everything our country stands for.
Well, if you can’t name all five, here they are: freedom of the press, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom to peaceably assemble and freedom to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
These are rights that most people overlook. Many people might not feel like the First Amendment truly affects them, but it does on a daily basis.
Without the First Amendment, newspapers would not be able to print the day’s news, churches would have to conform to some mandated belief, everyone would have to be a mindless robot without opinions of their own and democracy itself would be brought to a screeching halt before being replaced with some other form of unyielding rule.
It would not be good.
Really, it is a scary thought that so many people might not understand or appreciate the First Amendment. As a journalism student, I have learned how important the rights it guarantees truly are.
Of course, as a journalist for a college newspaper, I am often confronted with others that don’t understand the First Amendment.
Some people think if they are interviewed for an article, they should get to read the article before it is printed.
Doing so would be granting prior review, and it is frowned upon due to the fact the presses are granted freedom from such hindrances under the First Amendment.
Others believe they can demand or dictate what a newspaper publishes and reports on.
Again, the press has the right to report on anything they want because the First Amendment says so.
Granted, sometimes a news organization should report on certain things, but there is no rule saying such coverage must be granted. Even if it looks bad that something wasn’t reported on, there are no real repercussions except for negative publicity for the news outlet.
Sometimes people complain about coverage, or the lack thereof, because they believe funding sources should be able to dictate it; however, if the newspaper is supposed to be an independent news source, funding does not matter.
Lately, I find myself constantly standing up for my First Amendment. It seems like more and more people I interact with simply don’t get it.
To some, such an on-going battle might seem tedious and pointless because I repeat myself over and over, but I don’t see it that way.
The First Amendment is so important that it is worth fighting for, even if that fight is battled for every day.
In fact, I often carry a copy of the Constitution with me to remind myself of my rights and how lucky I am to have them.
That’s how important it is to me, and it should be that important to everyone.