Tuesday, September 28, 2010

We're celebrating First Amendment Day a little early this year

Posted By on Tue, Sep 28, 2010 at 10:26 AM

Technically, the University of North Carolina's 2nd annual First Amendment Day isn't until Thurs., Sept. 30. But, Charlotte's so darn excited about the First Amendment that we just can't contain ourselves, so we decided to get the party started first thing Monday morning. (Two examples: one, two.)

Since you're all aflutter about the First Amendment (and who isn't?), here it is:

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.

Say what you want, people. Believe what you want. Viva la prensa libre! (Long live the free press!) Government, sit yo' self down. We've got some shit to say, and you're gonna listen. In fact, we might just hold a rally.

Listen up: If we don't understand our rights, if we don't use them and stand up for them, we risk losing them. So, speak up! Don't be shy. Say what you need to say. Advocate for your beliefs. Publish your thoughts on the Internet or on paper ... your choice. Get yourself a T-shirt that reads, "I can say 'fuck' if I want to," and wear it wherever you want. Get yourself a picket sign. Go to the most radical church you can find, or the most traditional. Or, believe nothing at all. You pick. They're your rights. Express them as you see fit.

And, never forget this: The First Amendment isn't only about protecting your rights to free speech, to worship as you choose, to hold a rally, to publish what you want ... it's about every citizen's right to do all of those things. If you love the First Amendment, as I do, then you'll respect everyone's right to express themselves just as fervently as you'd protect your own right to do so.

Why? Because none of us know it all. But, when we share our ideas — however colorful, dumb or dull — we can crowdsource the best mix of them. Get it? Sharing makes us better. Allowing others to explore their ideas and beliefs may well teach us something about our own. Standing up for your own beliefs is empowering, and if you don't do it who will?

Here's Larry Flint, the infamous publisher of Hustler, whose own First Amendment battles lead him to the Supreme Court and a wheel chair. He also has a website that advocates for First Amendment rights. You should really listen to what he has to say in this video:

Rhiannon "Rhi" Bowman is an independent journalist who contributes snarky commentary on Creative Loafing's CLog blog four days a week in addition to writing for several other local media organizations. Additionally, she's on the steering committee for the Greater Charlotte Society of Professional Journalists. To learn more, click the links or follow Rhi on Twitter.

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