"The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more." (John Adams)
July 4th, 1776 was the day the Continental Congress approved the Declaration of Independence. The vote for independence was two days earlier, on July 2nd. Historians argue among themselves on the actual date the Declaration was signed.
July 4th is considered America's birthday. We celebrate, with fireworks, festivals, parades, cook outs, and any other forms of amusement. But, do we think, really think, what Independence Day really means?
The history of society is the story of mankind seeking independence, freedom, liberty, and equal justice. Whenever tyranny and despotism rose their ugly heads, mankind revolted. Usually it was the lower and middle classes who revolted against the repression and oppression of their so-called betters, the elitists.
America was founded upon certain principles. Those principles were later laid down in the Bill of Rights to the United States Constitution. The Bill of Rights is not a list of suggestions or a cafeteria menu. It is an iron clad guarantee that individuals have rights and protections from predatory government and each other. Make no mistake, the Bill of Rights is a list of articles protecting individual rights. The individual comes first, society, the collective, and government last. The articles were a prioritized list. The First Amendment being the most important.
We are constantly being told by our government that we have to give up some of our individual rights to ensure collective security, whatever that means. Our rights have eroded faster over the past eleven years than any other time in this nation's history.
People blame the government, terrorism, and a host of other issues for allowing their rights to be eroded. There is only one person who can erode your rights. It is you. Only you, and you alone, can cede your rights to the government, society, or collective. When you alone are multiplied by millions of apathetic citizens, your rights will be squashed.
As a writer, photojournalist, and citizen, Independence Day means reaffirming I will not allow anyone or the government to erode, step on, or deny me my rights under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.
I do not, and refuse to believe, I need to give up any rights for any reason. There are only two secure places in this world. The womb and the tomb. No one can guarantee your security. No measures by government can make you safe. Ceding your rights to government puts you in grave danger. It puts all of us in grave danger.
The worst and most egregious erosion is happening to the First Amendment. The assault on the First Amendment started gradually, but has picked up steam over the past decade or so. Busy bodies with too much time on their hands created and propagandized things like hate speech, racist speech, phobias which do not exist, and a host of other so-called societal prohibitions. Political correctness was concocted to incrementally inhibit free speech, free expression, and erode our rights.
Let us make one thing clear. There is no such thing as hate, bigoted, racist, offensive, or tasteless speech or expression in America. There is only free speech and free expression. All the other derogatory forms of expression are in the realm of etiquette. If there is a choice between etiquette, political correctness, and the First Amendment, free speech and expression rules.
We have the right to criticize people's speech and expression. We should criticize what offends or is tasteless. We have no right to shut people up up or shut them out. We have no right to deny people their rights to be offensive and tasteless. If you can do that to someone, what is to stop someone from doing that to you? What is to stop anyone from claiming your speech or expression is offensive or bigoted? What is to stop them from unleashing the lynch mobs against you?
If you want to see where this country is heading just look at Great Britain. A supposed free country that has controlled speech and expression. You can be jailed or fined for expressing anything derogatory against others. Express anything derogatory and off to the gaol you go. Even the press is not free in Great Britain. It is regulated. All expression, even religious, is regulated. There is no freedom of speech or expression in Great Britain. There is no free press. Their repression is mild compared to other nations.
If we are to be a truly free people we need to protect our freedoms from the government and the creative busy bodies and social media lynch mobs who have nothing better to do than knit and crochet concepts like political correctness, nonexistent phobias, ists, and isms. We must stop the lynch mobs from attacking, shutting up, and shutting down others.
Speech and expression are never wrong or illegal, no matter how offensive or tasteless. Actions are. Every person has the right to be an ist, bigot, or phobic. Every person has the right to love or hate any other person or group for any reason, and express their hate or love. We all have a right to be what we want. What we do not have, is the right to act upon speech or expression, denying others their rights. Actions are illegal. Speech and expression are not and never should be.
We the people does not mean we the conservatives, liberals, so-called progressives, extremists, political correct police, social media lynch mobs, or any other group. We, the people, is all of us.
Yes, Virginia, the Bill of Rights protects each and very one of us, no matter our political, social, or religious persuasion. Freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and freedom of expression are not political footballs. They are rights, unalienable rights, guaranteed to each and everyone of us. Guaranteed to the individual.
No politician or government official has the right to erode them in the name of anything. No politician or government official has the right to define what our freedoms are or what the press, journalism, or journalist is. No politician or government official has the right to to claim safety or some other issue trumps our rights. By the way, no other citizen, group, or collective, has those rights.
Your rights are yours. Use them, abuse them if you must, but do everything possible to protect them. They are the only thing separating civilized people from savages. If you do not protect your rights, no one else will.
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