On June 8th, 1789, James Madison introduced to the House of Representatives a draft of the First Amendment: ''The people shall not be deprived or abridged of their right to speak, to write, or to publish their sentiments; and the freedom of the press, as one of the great bulwarks of liberty, shall be inviolable.'' The special committee to some extent rewrote the proposed Amendment: ''The freedom of speech and of the press, and the right of the people peaceably to assemble and consult for their common good, and to apply to the Government for redress of grievances, shall not be infringed.” In this form it went to the Senate and in due process it was once again rewritten: ''That Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and consult for their common good, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.''
When we think about the First Amendment, we must first think of why it exists, especially when it comes to the freedom of speech. If certain forms of speech were not offensive to some, speech would not need protections under the Constitution. Speech and the freedom thereof, are a right to protect the expression of that which some may deem controversial or offensive.
In doing so, the burden of responsibility has been placed on the receiver of a given message, not the sender! Today, this point is being grossly overlooked by those most protected by the Amendment; the media. Case in point; CNN Radio’s Lisa Desjardins who is currently working on a three part series addressing the “anger” and “hateful” nature of politics. This of course brought into the limelight after Saturday’s slaying of the innocent in Tucson, AZ.
Desjardins started her series by singling out friend and fellow Examiner writer Jesse Mathewson. To make her point, Desjardins took exception to Jesse’s active and very open position against immigration enforcement measures in the state of Arizona while questioning his direct approach in his articles attacking strategies below the formal levels of the law to tighten immigration in a region economically stricken by illegal immigration. This of course was exploited as she passively assaulted Jesse’s right to speak freely in her defense of those who may be offended by such speech.
Largely this has been the tone of America. Are we saying things too tersely that leads to an atmosphere in which violence may be a secondary by-product? What is missing is the intent of the First Amendment from its initial form, to the final Amendment right of all Americans. The tragedy in Tucson, though horrid, has lent itself to a debate aiming to protect the receiver of messages and away from what the right actually protects. This is a passive aggressive attack on the U.S. Constitution, its Amendments and the rights granted to the people under it. The problem is that Americans see interviews such as this as being benign and not for the malignancy of anti-Americanism they actually represent.
The issue that lies before the American people is not in what is being stated, it is the lack of the enforcement of the responsibility of respecting freedom even when we do not fully agree with the controversies it brings forth. When speech is expressed in a manner that is not desirable to some, and they in turn go forth and act violently against it; it is they whom have failed freedom – it is not the sender, but the receiver who is wrong. Like it or not, this how America was formed to be.
As the nation moves forward in trying to understand the acts of Saturday, January 8th, 2011, we struggle to make sense of that which will simply never make sense. It is out of desperation that our struggle inappropriately extends itself to defend the lowest common sensibility and in doing so we move further and further away from freedom.
Immigration is an area in which Jesse and I have never seen eye to eye and probably never will. This however, does not define our relationship; it accentuates our relationship. This is due to the simple fact that we not only respect each other, but we respect each other’s rights as Americans. Respect for the rights of fellow Americans is what the mainstream media is thwarting through its irresponsible reporting and representations of “angry” and “hurtful.” Spirited debate is demonized because it suggests that an opposing view has been offended into defending itself. America is moving away from the burden of freedom out of a gross lack of respect for and ignorance of freedom itself.