Submitted by William Elder.
“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,” wrote James Madison.
Strong clear words. Words often twisted to serve one political cause or another. These days it is the vociferous far right of the Republican Party, often religious conservatives. Religion, even their Protestant evangelical version of it, is alive and well in today’s America, no fear— “except fear itself,” as one President put it
Less clear is the jumbling together of freedom of speech, press, “or the right of the people peaceably to assemble.” Each could have used its own separate mention, clarification.
The “press”, reporting as best it can against the administration’s all-out attempts to control, silence, or distort its factual examination of our shortcomings, is grappling with the right wing’s antipathy to fact itself, the truth regarding its failures and misgovernance, the gross incompetence of its leaders, especially top down.
The “freedom of speech” part, so bantered about by every side of every argument, forgets one key and vital right implied therein, though not implicitly stated: That implied right is: For your speech, however heartfelt, has the concomitant right to be ignored by all thoughtful men and women: We hear you; we understand; we choose to ignore your comments; we thank you! Next!
“Petition(ing) the Government for a redress of grievances”— good or ill, substantive or frivolous— if they were shingles they would keep us all dry for a thousand years, with a money-back guarantee for five hundred more! No Constitutional worry there.
This First Amendment is but one of the strong pillars driven into our political landscape by our Founders, not at the time of their Constitutional deliberations but forced upon them, as a required afterthought, an extended measure of not merely our structure of governance, but our invite to humanity come participate equally in it.