During the course of our class yesterday, people formed different opinions of the first amendment and how it applies throughout the entire conversation. I saw facial expressions change, body language, tone, and hand gestures all gave a hint of what the people in the room were thinking.
As an American, I never thought twice about my first amendment rights. Hell, the only thing I’ve thought twice about was getting them tattooed somewhere on my body. There’s a real sense of democracy embedded into those rights. But, our guest Dr. Joseph Russomanno mentioned in passing that many Americans themselves don’t understand what rights are afforded to them.
I think the view we had on the discussion of the first amendment yesterday was intriguing, because most of the people in the room had no idea to what extent the first amendment applied. The surprise in people’s faces when they found out that we would protect someone who burned the American flag with the very laws that it represents, that we would not limit the rights of groups engaged in hate speech, was something I was surprised to see.
Someone in class said to me that they were not a fan of the first amendment, that they preferred “rights, with responsibility.” The question I immediately asked myself, and I now ask to all of you, is how does the first amendment portray itself as giving rights without responsibility? Do American’s use it irresponsibly? How could the right to free expression be given responsibly? What defines responsible rights?