I’ve written and re-written this column several times. Some of the writing was just a release for me, to get the things nobody could stomach reading out.
Some of what I wrote was intended to publish in this space, but it just seemed redundant.
I mean, let’s be honest here: the events that took place in Washington, DC last week at the US Capitol were not surprising. All we saw was a familiar face in the mirror, America.
As a subsequent action from that, we are now seeing social media platforms take what some would argue to be unconstitutional measures regarding what people can and cannot post.
It’s not unconstitutional, and here’s why:
The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states, “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.”
As American citizens, our freedoms of speech, press, religion, assembly, and the right to petition our government are protected under the First Amendment.
Simply put, the First Amendment protects us from having the government limit our speech or the other four freedoms aforementioned.
This is also why the government cannot force an individual to say something they do not want to say, including singing the National Anthem, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance or praying.
The First Amendment not only guarantees our right to speech, it equally guarantees our right to receive information.
I mean, think about it: if you would put someone out of your house for threatening you or deeply insulting you, why wouldn’t businesses follow that same line of practice?
I think it’s noteworthy to add that censoring a person’s speech because you don’t agree with their opinion is absolutely not the same thing.
I see all kinds of comments on The Citizen’s Facebook page that I vehemently disagree with on every level.
But that doesn’t warrant me deleting the comments or blocking the people I disagree with from commenting.
You see, I want a wide range of ideas to be heard, even those I personally loathe.
Everyone has a right to their opinion; however misplaced it may be.
I’ll admit it can be a slippery slope, determining when to say “enough is enough.”
On The Citizen’s social media platforms, if a comment includes racial slurs, hate-fueled comments against a person’s race/sex/sexual orientation/religion, or incites violence, then this is no longer a difference of opinion.
Calling someone “a stupid Leftist” or a “dumb Trumpeter” is juvenile and displays that person’s inability to debate effectively, but doesn’t incite violence.
Typing “All you _______ (insert group of individuals here) should be killed” will get you a quick trip to Blockville - and a screenshot of your post would be promptly forwarded to local law enforcement authorities.
At that point, your freedom of speech has crossed over from being uncivilized, tacky commentary to a real danger to others.
Newspaper owners and editors have always limited speech. As a matter of fact, if you look at the “Write To Us” section at the top left hand corner of this page, you see some of our guidelines for Letters to the Editor submissions.
The First Amendment doesn’t require any newspaper to publish your opinions, and newspapers reserve the right to edit - or refuse - to print your submissions.
You see, when looked at straight on, the First Amendment is neither “Left” or “Right” wing. It is for everyone (yes, everyone.)
When used correctly, it can be used to push our society for change - or to oppose change.
Our right to gather in a peaceful public protest is not up for debate, either. Every single American has that right, whether you agree with why they are protesting or not. Your fear or disagreement with a cause doesn’t give you the right to suppress that constitutional right. Unless there is clear, real danger of violence or harm, every right we ALL are guaranteed under the Constitution must be respected.
I know there are a good number of people who believe life is not possible - and information does not exist - without Facebook, the internet and 24-hour cable news stations.
Newsflash: it does.
“Watch your tongue and keep your mouth shut, and you will stay out of trouble.”
– Proverbs 21:23 (NLT)