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Letting Free Speech Slide

Okay, I’d like to take a little poll. Who out there values the fact that we have freedom of speech in the United States?
Okay, we probably all like that, or else we wouldn’t get together as a bunch of artists and poets and writers. So I’ll ask the next question in our poll: Do you like the fact that the U.S. Government is so involved with newspaper stories that it approves all newspaper articles published?
Well wait, that doesn’t happen. Especially when people have deduced how “liberal” the media is, when the government oozes so much Republicanism. So I guess that freedom of speech thing adheres to newspapers as well, and that’s probably a good thing, because people can read a variety of viewpoints and come to their own conclusions.
Um, good thing teens don’t read the newspaper often. Because only half of our teens believe (according to the the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the University of Connecticut’s $1 million, two year-long survey) that newspapers should be able to publish stories that did not have the government’s approval.
Yes, we need big brother to approve our stories before we publish them in newspapers, to make sure they ... to make sure they what? Make sure they don’t cause a panic, or a riot? Or to make sure they don’t make people think?
The BBC news reported that according to this survey “a significant number of US high-school students regard their constitutional right to freedom of speech as excessive.” And “Over a third ... felt the First Amendment went ‘too far’ in guaranteeing freedom of speech, press, worship and assembly.”
This survey even concluded that a lot of teens (falsely) believed the Government had the right to censor the internet — and about two thirds of the teens polled falsely believed that burning the U.S. flag was illegal
MSNBC reported via an AP article that teens seem to even have a more censorial and restrictive in their views than elders, as only 87% of teens polled, versus 99% of adults polled, felt that people should be allowed to express unpopular views.
Wow, that 13% of teens better not get in our way, we might express something they don’t like.
But that’s okay, we let them have the right to voice their opinions. That’s the American Way.
The survey results reflected an indifference to the First Amendment, as teens seems to think it was “no big deal.” The director of the Journalism Education Association, said in the report that “this all comes at a time when there is decreasing passion for much of anything.”
And you know, they may be right. People do seem to be dispassionate nowadays. Teens have become detached after being a product of the MTV generation, and after playing so many video games for so many hours of the day instead of caring about the news. or what happens around them.
I mean Hell, if they don’t have anything to say, maybe they don’t mind losing their rights.

The sad thing is that teens seem to take free speech for granted, which seems to reflect the way the Republican party has taught everyone to think after 9/11. Consider that after Bin Laden taught people who hated American to learn to fly airplanes to the could hijack them and drive them into economic and governmental buildings (iconic representations of the United States). After the morning of September 11th, President George Bush was determined to find a way to stop this from happening again — which, for him, included the Patriot Act, which expands the ability of states and the Federal Government to conduct surveillance of American citizens, and isn’t limited to terrorism. Greg Downing wrote in A Historical Argument Against the Patriot Act, that “under the Patriot Act anyone suspected of terrorist affiliations can be arrested and detained without solid evidence to prove their affiliations.” It even allows foreign and domestic intelligence agencies to more easily spy on Americans. The Patriot Act authorizes the use of “sneak and peek” search warrants. According to The Nation, “The Patriot Act was so named to imply that those who question its sweeping new powers of surveillance, detention and prosecution are traitors.” But PBS’ Frontline even noted that since it’s inception, the Patriot Act “has come under harsh criticism from both the political left and the right as a threat to Americans’ rights as guaranteed by the Constitution and Bill of Rights.”
I know I’m going on. I’ll stop. But I could name more...
Either way, Americans all felt the need to fly and continue their work on their own terms after 9/11, despite the threat of terrorist takeover of their airplanes. Americans were willing to take longer at airports for security reasons, even though some have found that women get their body physically checked more often. I mean, I had to lose a pair of cuticle clippers because I was nearsighted enough to not realize that they could be used as a violent weapon on a flight back from Hawaii. But we’ll deal with these things, to ensure our safety.
I think I’ve said this before, but people have claimed that they were willing to relinquish their freedoms to ensure their safety.
Which leads me to the Benjamin Franklin quote:
“The man who trades freedom for security does not deserve nor will he ever receive either.”

So where does that lead us? To hope for our rights that people keep taking away from us? To continue to write, to voice our opinions, to be heard? We’ve been letting free speech slide, like we’re on a toboggan ride on a snowy hillside in the dead of a February winter. Can we put our feet out to the sides, to try to stop this ride before it gets too fast and we hit the bottom?

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