The 1st Amendment to the Constitution
Until this point, I’ve never chosen an amendment which I fully agreed on. Rather, I’ve elaborated on numerous amendments. However, one must adopt to the culture which is his or her audience, and approach topics with the facts. This means analyzing the large and small points. So what is the most important part of the constitution? In keeping with current scenarios, there is only a single part of the constitution which is applicable to this question — the 1st Amendment to the constitution, which states verbatim:
“Congress shall make no laws respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
In summary, the 1st Amendment to the constitution focuses on the Freedoms of Religions, Speech, Press, Assembly, and Petition. Which sounds like a winning scenario until one analyzes our current societal issues. For instance, there is often a double standard in dealing with these rights. Which leads to these two essential questions: How many limitations should be put on these freedoms? How few limitations should be put on these freedoms? For America as a society to find the answers, every citizen and our government must study these freedoms, and grasp an understanding of what is politically and ethically correct.
First: The freedom of religion. Although these issues aren’t as prominent as those of speech and assembly, they are still present in our society. For example, there is always a feud between radically conservative ‘christians’ and other religions which are of opposition. I approach this with ease, as I am a moderately conservative caucasian male who was raised catholic. Since I’m a man from this background, an audience would assume that I am in agreement with these ideals. However, that’s incorrect. I don’t agree with the blatant hatred which is often demonstrated in America. Whether you’re born here or emigrated here, you’re a citizen here. The racial and religious prejudice which is seen in the land of the free is utterly disgusting. For a person to stereotype upon the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender, political views, or socioeconomic background is an atrocity. In another perspective, the same individuals who will call the desecration of the American flag a travesty are the same ones who desecrate the moral foundation of this country by delivering hateful oppression to those who support what they believe in.
Every individual has rights to disagree with a belief or system of beliefs. But if an argument lacks knowledge it’s ignorant. For instance, the statement that ‘all muslims are terrorists’ is blatant ignorance. But why do we still hear this? Because people are not properly exercising the rights they are given. The fact of the matter is, that statement is wrong. But in contrast, the overlapping double standard is clear and present: The select few radicalized christian groups are what categorize the whole religion as oppressive, and therefore christians are physically and emotionally persecuted for their beliefs. Due to the fact that Christianity has been prominent in America since 1776, many people overlook the issue with this. If all things are equal, why is there mass persecution for one group yet not another? The issue is that there should not be a standard at all. Being that this country was founded upon religious freedom, we as a society should deem it necessary to allow ALL citizens of the United States to worship freely and without fear of oppression. This country, as a unit of the monarchy of Great Britain during the early colonization period, was a mecca of religious freedom for those who were diverse in their practices. Many groups, such as the Puritans, fled in search of freedom due to their differences from the Anglo-Catholic Church of England. When this country was implemented, this freedom was upheld. So, in correspondence with the other freedoms of speech and assembly, when a religious group or movement appeals to protest, boundaries should be set limiting HOW they protest, due to the fact that such protests can be received as a crime of hatred.
It’ll be many years before equality embraced. The issue is shown in America is that racism, intolerance, and hatred of someone is not a method of natural instinct. Intolerance is not something we are born with. Rather it’s a mindset which is learned. If something is learned it must either be taught or observed. So the issues which arise are those of a past era. An era which is in the history books. Before our society will see the necessary changes which need to occur, every individual must evaluate themselves and begin to formulate a mindset which is free from oppression. As it stands America is not as United as it seems. This issue is exemplified through the Freedoms of Speech and Assembly. In recent months, a growing issue is that of racially motivated violence which spurs from peaceful protesting. For instance, in the city of Charlottesville, Virginia, White Supremacists rallied to protest the removal of confederate monuments. While I don’t agree with the ideology of hate groups, I do believe the statements of two Conservative African-American women who were interviewed in response to the aftermath of these events, and the way our president responded. As quoted from Janelle Jones’ statement:
“Charlottesville isn’t just a black/white issue, but rather a left fringe/right fringe issue”
When asked on her standpoint on Confederate statues and if they bothered her, LaQueisha Hughes responded:
“No. It’s history, I wasn’t born back then, you weren’t either. So why is that affecting us? If anything we should grow and learn from it. It’s just like Martin Luther King said: ‘You don’t judge people by the color of their skin, you base that on their character’. I think for myself. Period. Nobody’s gonna tell me what to think, or how to think. I’m not gullible and I’m not blind.”
I do not believe in hatred, ignorance, or the exclusion of factual history. The confederate monuments which have raised argumentative protests and counter-protests are HISTORY. Although they represent atrocity, they’re a history which must be embraced for unity. In contrast, the recent events in Charlottesville demonstrate the total hatred which fills the hearts of many people in America. The issue here is, White Supremacists were granted the permit to protest in Charlottesville. However, counter-protesters were not. This raises questions on the limitations which should be implemented to prevent violence from occurring. In the instance of Charlottesville, violence unnecessarily occurred. During the counter-protest, a White Supremacist named James Alex Fields Jr., drove a Dodge Challenger at a high rate-of-speed into a crowd of counter-protesters, injuring 19 people and killing 1. In addition to this, during the violence, 2 counter-protesters were killed during these protests. Why, in the 21st Century is there violence like this? It’s evident that Congress needs to enact a better plan to limit what forms of groups may protest and what statements they may make. In contrast to violence caused by white supremacists, groups such as Black Lives Matter have had dangerous protests. In the city of St. Louis, Missouri, on the anniversary of the death of Michael Brown by a police officer, protesters rallied in the street. At one point, a male protester who remains unknown, marched onto a highway — at night — and was hit by a car. As the car stopped, a protester in the crowd began to fire rounds from a handgun at the vehicle, who was forced to flee. The driver of the vehicle didn’t deliberately strike the protester, but he was still assaulted because of the incident. The issues with both of these groups is an unstructured organization and a fueled hatred which they both possess. Many people would approach this issue with a standpoint of disagreement. However, the evidence is clear: If this were the case there would be non-violent events, correct? In order to counteract these errors in judgement, congress must enact limitation on how protests are conducted.
Basically, America has a substantial amount of development to pursue before there will be even a relative sense of unity. This development can begin with the constitution. By analyzing the governmental and individual guide for America, we can be a catalyst for change. As Martin Luther King Jr. once stated:
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”
What these words demonstrate is unity. So you and your group have a desire to protest? Fair Enough. You’re granted that right. But do so in a way which is tolerant and non-violent. Organized protests need to truly think about the consequences of non-peaceful assembly prior to protesting. Groups must not infringe upon groups which are also practicing their freedoms. The 1st Amendment applies to ALL American Citizens, not just a single group. Through peaceful, tolerant protests, this country may be able to enact better strategies for enduring the peace and unity which it needs to be successful in developing in years to come.