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Words about rights and privileges

December 8, 2010 - Brad Siddons
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. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution

The First Amendment isn't first by accident. Our Founding Fathers saw the freedom to speak your mind as an essential cornerstone of the type of nation they were trying to establish. They knew of the horrible fate that awaited those who spoke out against tyranny in other countries, and wanted to nip such possibilities in the bud. So right up front, we were guaranteed that very simple yet very important freedom.

We have the freedom to speak our minds. That does not mean we are entitled to the means to do so. That is up to each one of us, and that is where folks sometimes get a little confused, in my opinion. Nowhere is this confusion seen more often, I believe, than in the newsroom of the typical American newspaper. Sometimes we must deny people access to our pages, and as often as not they will point to the Bill of Rights in protest. If I had a nickel for every time someone said — “But what about my right to free speech?” — well, you know the rest.

Lawyers at various levels have spent and will spend many, many hours trying to interpret just what the founders meant when they penned the first and all the other amendments. To me, a lowly editor, the amendments are sublime in their simplicity and require no interpretation.

You are free to stand on a soapbox and rant and rave all day about whatever is on your mind. You have that freedom, and it is guaranteed. You say you want your message to reach more people? Buy a loudspeaker, or a printing press for that matter. Today, it's easier than ever, thanks to the internet. Just set up a web page, and pontificate to your heart's content. Just watch that you don't libel anyone, or otherwise infringe on their freedoms. With freedom comes responsibility.

This or any other newspaper is not required by the First Amendment to carry your message, any more than a gun shop is required by the Second Amendment to hand out revolvers to anyone who asks. Some Americans — an increasing number of them — seem to think that they are entitled to everything this great nation has to offer, regardless of whether they have worked for them or not. That attitude is killing the United States, one entitlement at a time.

That's enough words for this blog. I wouldn't want to abuse the privilege my employer gives me to write on this website, a privilege for which I am grateful every day. I am also grateful for the First Amendment, without which none of this would be accomplished.


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