ARE WE REALLY FREE TO SPEAK AND EXPRESS OURSELVES? How many people believe we are really free to speak or express ourselves under the protection of our first amendment? And if we are really free to express ourselves, why is it that people have lost their jobs or have got into trouble by their mere words? Is it fair that we express ourselves with body art and clothing that are distasteful to others regardless of their age, race, religion, or creed? How about rap artists and song writers? Should they have the right to say whatever they want?
In my essay, I will be discussing my view points on this matter and I will also be showing you what the government restrictions and limitations they have imposed against an amendment that was set forth to protect the people and limit government control in the first place. “Freedom of speech in the United States is protected by the First amendment to the United States Constitution and by many state constitutions and state and federal laws. Criticism of the government and advocacy of unpopular ideas that people may find distasteful or against public policy, such as racism, sexism, and other hate speech are almost always permitted.
There are exceptions to these general protection’s, including the Miller test for obscenity, child pornography laws, speech that incites imminent lawless action, and regulation of commercial speech such as advertising. Within these limited areas, other limitations on free speech balance rights to free speech and other rights, such as rights for authors and inventors over their works and discoveries (copyright and patent), interests in “fair” political campaigns (Campaign finance laws), protection from imminent or potential violence against particular persons (restrictions on fighting words), or the use of untruths to harm others (slander).
Distinctions are often made between speech and other acts which may have symbolic significance. ” ( http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Freedom_of_speech_in_the_United_States) The First Amendment states that, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise therof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceable assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. ” ( http://firstamendment. com/firstamendment. php). Flag esecration has continually, albeit controversially, been protected by the First Amendment, despite state laws to the contrary. A Constitutional Amendment has been introduced to contravene the First Amendment’s protection on flag burning, but it has failed to acquire the requisite enactment by all the states. “Despite the exceptions, the legal protections of the First Amendment are some of the broadest of any industrialized nation, and remain a critical, and occasionally controversial, component of American jurisprudence. ” ( http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Freedom_of_speech_in_the_United_States)
I do agree that there should be some limitations. Without limitations, people would abuse their First Amendment right and would be chaotic and unorganized. On a flip side, how can you take action on someone voicing their opinion? Our right to speak freely without lashing out is the right of the people given because it is our own opinions. Just ideas and viewpoints that may strike a nerve, but does not call for action, because of the effect it has on others. Let’s take rap lyrics for instance. We know that some music is very provocative and offensive especially to the women of our society.
These lyrics are opinions, viewpoints, and experiences that they have been through, witnessed or fantasized about and it is their right to say what they feel even if it’s offensive. If you don’t like that kind of music or it offends you, don’t listen to it . Here’s the funny part. When you go into a club or a social setting where these lyrics are being played, you will hear women singing right along with this ‘supposed to be offensive music’. Such lyrics only reflect the thoughts of people who are too cowardly to say themselves.
A noted journalist by the name of Juan Williams was fired from his job at NPR for making the following statement: “When I get on a plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb, and I think, you know, they’re identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous. ” ( http://www. pbs. org/newshour/bb/media/july-dec10/williams1022-. html) Now, although his words may have offended someone, how can this man be punished because he expressed his fear and concerns, which are legit because of the terrorist attacks and threats on American soil, which were executed by a particular group?
He goes on to say that he’s a little nervous when he sees someone from the organization regardless if they had anything to do with it. He got fired because his statement seemed offensive and out of line for a journalist. Now let’s say he got mugged by a gangbanger and he gets on the radio and says, “Every time I see a black person who identifies themselves as a gangbanger, I get a little nervous. ” This statement is a little stereotypical, but it’s his feelings so why should he be punished for it. He’s not slandering anyone, he’s not causing imminent danger to anyone, so then why was he fired?
We often hear about people being punished for their words. Let’s face it, this is America baby, Land of the Free, right? But what about the press? Don’t they violate so many peoples’ privacy? Yet they are protected by the First Amendment to sleep outside peoples’ houses or to stuff cameras into celebrities’ children’s faces. How is it that any of this is different than someone saying something offensive verses someone doing something offensive? Schools have also been known to limit the speech of their students. This is particularly disturbing.
Schools are meant to maintain a level of openness; creating an environment for America’s youth to discover worldly thoughts and learn how to think for themselves. How, if they are limited on what they are allowed to say, can they think for themselves when the school is telling them, in other words, not to think? “Students do not,” the Court tells us in Tinker vs. Des Moines, “shed their constitutional rights when they enter the schoolhouse door. ” But it is also the case that school administrators have a far greater ability to restrict the speech of their students than the government has to restrict the speech of the general public. ( http://law2. umkc. edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/conlaw/studentspeech. htm) ( http://law2umkc. edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/conlaw/studentspeech. htm) “In Tinker vs. Des Moines, the Court found that the First Amendment protected the right of high school students to wear black armband in a public high school, as a form of protest against the Vietnam War. The court ruled that this symbolic speech—“closely akin to pure speech”—could only be prohibited by school administrators if they could show that it would cause a substantial disruption of the school’s educational mission. With all the restrictions put on children in school on what they can say and what they can’t say is misleading our youth that the First Amendment is being honored by their educators. To be quite frank, it’s very confusing and gives characteristics of injustice. – My last point is that I do not feel libraries should ban books. Libraries are supposed to be a place with a wealth of knowledge. Somewhere you can go to learn information on any subject from any point of view. And for people to say that because of its content, we don’t have this book, imposes on our First Amendment.
I mean pornography and books to overthrow the president would be politically incorrect but again, you’re putting limitations where they don’t need to be. The library carries books for all ages and because a library committee feels it’s not good reading material, you ban it from others to enjoy based on your views and stand points. How is this fair? Libraries are peoples’ hide out spot. Places where people can get lost in their imagination and become so engulfed in reading that nothing else matters. Yet, someone has found a way to yet again restrict or limit our rights.
In my conclusion, it is an amendment. It is mine and every American citizen’s right to speak freely without repercussions to limit our ability to express ourselves. Limiting our rights to free speech would require amending the First Amendment, and if government cannot do so, then they cannot look for ways to punish people because of what they say. Is it okay for me to punch a man in his face for calling me stupid? Then why is it okay to get reprimanded or scolded to voice your opinion? The Constitution of the United States of America was written with certain protection of its people in mind.
It is the responsibility of the government to uphold these laws of humanity. This is what the American people rely on for justice and freedom. It is what America stands for, so if the freedom of speech is not being protected, then we really aren’t free. Works Cited http://firstamendment. com/firstamendment. php. Page 1 http://www. pbs. org/newshour/bb/media/july-dec10/williams_10-22. html. page 1 http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Freedom_of_speech_in_the_United_States. Page 1 http://law2umkc. edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/conlaw/studentspeech. htm. Page 1