No other democratic society in the world permits personal freedoms tothe degree of the United States of America. Within the last sixty years,American courts, especially the Supreme Court, have developed a set oflegal doctrines that thoroughly protect all forms of the freedom ofexpression. When it comes to evaluating the degree to which we takeadvantage of the opportunity to express our opinions, some members ofsociety may be guilty of violating the bounds of the First Amendment bypublicly offending others through obscenity or racism.
Americans havedeveloped a distinct disposition toward the freedom of expressionthroughout history. The First Amendment clearly voices a great American respect toward thefreedom of religion. It also prevents the government from “abridging thefreedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably toassemble and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. “Since the early history of our country, the protection of basic freedomshas been of the utmost importance to Americans. In Langston Hughes’ poem, “Freedom,” he emphasizes the struggle toenjoy the freedoms that he knows are rightfully his. He reflects theAmerican desire for freedom now when he says, “I do not need my freedomwhen I’m dead.Order now
I cannot live on tomorrow’s bread. ” He recognizes the needfor freedom in its entirety without compromise or fear. I think Langston Hughes captures the essence of the Americanimmigrants’ quest for freedom in his poem, “Freedom’s Plow. ” He accuratelydescribes American’s as arriving with nothing but dreams and buildingAmerica with the hopes of finding greater freedom or freedom for the firsttime. He depicts how people of all backgrounds worked together for onecause: freedom.
I selected Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 as a fictitious example ofthe evils of censorship in a world that is becoming illiterate. In thisbook, the government convinces the public that book reading is evil becauseit spreads harmful opinions and agitates people against the government. The vast majority of people accept this censorship of expression withoutquestion and are content to see and hear only the government’s propaganda. I found this disturbing yet realistic. Bradbury’s hidden opposition tothis form of censorship was apparent throughout the book and finallyprevailed in the end when his main character rebelled against the practiceof burning books. Among the many forms of protests are pickets, strikes, public speechesand rallies.
Recently in New Jersey, more than a thousand communityactivists rallied to draft a “human” budget that puts the needs of the poorand handicapped as a top priority. Rallies are an effective means forpeople to use their freedoms effectively to bring about change from thegovernment. Freedom of speech is constantly being challenged as is evidenced in arecent court case where a Gloucester County school district censoredreviews of two R-rated movies from a school newspaper. Superior CourtJudge, Robert E.
Francis ruled that the student’s rights were violatedunder the state Constitution. I feel this is a major break through forstudents’ rights because it limits editorial control of school newspapersby educators and allows students to print what they feel is important. A newly proposed bill (A-557) would prevent school officials fromcontrolling the content of student publications. Critics of the bill feelthat “student journalists may be too young to understand theresponsibilities that come with free speech. ” This is a valid point;however, it would provide an excellent opportunity for them to learn abouttheir First Amendment rights that guarantees free speech and freedom of thepress. In his commencement address to Monmouth College graduates, ProfessorAlan Dershowitz of Harvard Law School defended the broad right to freespeech.
He stated, “My message to you graduates is to assert your rights,to use them responsibly and boldly, to oppose racism, to oppose sexism, tooppose homophobia and bigotry of all kinds and to do so within the spiritof the First Amendment, not by creating an exception to it. ” I agree thatone should feel free to speak openly as long as it does not directly orindirectly lead to the harm of others. One of the more controversial issues was the recent 2 Live Crewincident involving obscenity in rap music. Their record, “As Nasty as TheyWanna Be,” was ruled obscene in federal court.
They were acquitted of thecharges and quickly became a free speech martyr. Although many storespulled the album, over two million copies sold as a result of the incident.I feel