Tuesday, October 9, 2007

1st Amendment: revisited

In light of recent events, I think we should take the time to re-visit the 1st Amendment, specifically issues of freedom of speech.

Colorado media was buzzing about David McSwane, the editor of the Colorado State University newspaper. McSwane wrote in his opinion editorial “Taser this: F--- Bush.” Not the most persuasive argument I have heard lately but I am also known for having a colorful vocabulary. I try to be careful who is around when I use profanity. Other cops-yes, Grandmother-no. Why be careful? I have the freedom to say what I want. The first amendment protects me from the government not from the consequences I would receive from my friends and family. The situation is similar with the newspaper.

The purpose of the newspaper is to place as many advertisements as possible, then sell as many copies as possible. If is likely that McSwane’s comment may have an effect on this equation? I think so. Therefore it is reasonable for the newspaper to police itself. The Rocky Mountain Collegian's code of ethics, bars "profane or vulgar words" in opinion writing. McSwane was admonished but allowed to keep his job. That is the self-control that is needed in a free country.

I’m sure President Bush is not happy about the comment but there was never a word from the government. In my eyes, this story has a happy ending, the CSU College Republicans have started their own newspaper, the Ram Republic. As I said a few weeks ago, the cure for bad speech is more speech.


The recent Columbus Day parade in Denver is deserving of commentary. 83 protesters were arrested for disrupting/attempting to block the parade. I was there for this event which would only be made possible by the 1st Amendment. Without that clause, the City of Denver would be more than happy to deny one or both sides the right to speak and avoid the headache. I never heard the dollar amount but I am sure the overtime cost is enormous.

Thanks to the 1st, the marchers were issued a permit to have a parade. The protesters were issued a permit for the steps of the capitol, which was a part of the parade route. The majority of the route was lined, not by average parade spectators cheering and waving flags, but protesters shouting and waving signs. Although unsightly and disorganized, this is the perfect example of freedom of speech in action. I loved every minute of it.

What about the 83 arrests? They crossed the lines and attempted to deny the rights of the marchers. They were warned, then arrested. Those that I spoke with or saw interviewed, stated that they entered the street knowing they would be arrested. The arrest amplified the message. This is symbolic speech at its best. I have far more respect for those who took the risk of civil disobedience and were arrested than the several hundred who had no better way to exercise their rights than to shout profanity.

I watched another protest outside the jail where the protesters were being processed. These protesters were demanding that those arrested by released. What they are trying to do is take away the sacrifice made by those who engaged in civil disobedience.

Consequences are a requirement if those who commit acts of peaceful civil disobedience are to be honored.

So my message to the marchers, thank you for exercising your rights. To those shouting obscenities from the sidewalks, you learned that you have the right to speak, not say something worthwhile. To those who were arrested, I would offer a quote from Henry David Thoreau “Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty.”

1 comment:

Reed E said...

What they are trying to do is take away the sacrifice made by those who engaged in civil disobedience.

Is that so clear? Those who thrill in the experience of being arrested may not be keen on spending time in the slammer.

"Dude, I so gotta get out of here. My drum circle needs me."