The 1st Amendment matters no matter what

It would be un-American to deny someone their right to speak.

Police+intervened+in+protests+when+conservative+columnist+Ben+Shapiro+came+to+University+of+California+Berkeley.+

Michael Pihulic, via Flickr, Creative Commons

Police intervened in protests when conservative columnist Ben Shapiro came to University of California Berkeley.

One of the fundamental truths about being an American is that you have certain, unalienable rights: rights that are clearly written in our Bill of Rights that define America as a country of freedom––which, during the late 1700s, was a radically different idea. Freedoms of speech, religion, assembly, petition, and press were some of the most groundbreaking ideas of that era, and they have set the precedent for many democracies that have followed after.

However, one of our rights is being slowly but surely forgotten, ignored, and undervalued: the freedom of speech. Too often society takes for granted this basic freedom, and ignores what life is like in countries where this freedom is denied. In countries like China and North Korea, where dissention is outlawed and the leaders of the country are not to be questioned, people have lost their ability to judge their leaders, speak their opinions freely, and engage in public discussions.

Because of its significance, it is arguably the most important right that Americans are blessed to have.
In our last issue, the Editorial Board decided to focus our Staff Editorial on the importance of discussion: the idea that, to have a well run, functioning, and progressive society, it is imperative that everyone is able to share their opinions openly and freely.

However, that Editorial did not address the fact that in today’s political climate, discussion is not valued. Freedom of speech is questioned by our President, attacked by those who don’t want others’ opinions to be heard, and used as a platform for violent rhetoric.

Denying any speaker a platform to share their ideas is only hindering our own progress. It is only through hearing people speak, actually listening to their ideas, and providing them with your own ideas that you can have thoughtful discussion.”

— Henry Bird

Today, political polarization is rampant. Both the left and the right are being driven further to their own sides, and the middle ground is fading away. Our society follows a code of either being right or wrong, with no room for discussion. This has turned us into a society where facts are disputed, hatred is commonplace, and it is better to get nothing done than to work with people who have different views than you. This lack of compromise doesn’t lead to progress and only entrenches us into our own political views.

In recent months, there have been several instances of people’s freedom of speech being shut down on a simple basis of disagreement. From speakers like Milo Yiannopoulos to Ben Shapiro, there have been many times where speakers have either had their invitations revoked or have not been able to speak at colleges because of their beliefs, ideas, and arguments.

It is understandable that, at colleges, these speakers are oftentimes paid for by school tuition, and students should have a say in what speakers are allowed at their universities. Denying any speaker a platform to share their ideas is only hindering our own progress. It is only through hearing people speak, actually listening to their ideas, and providing them with your own ideas that you can have thoughtful discussion.

Without this, Americans will continue to ignore each other’s opinions and beliefs, which sets us back further into an area of misunderstanding, mistrust, and, ultimately, hatred.
Of course, some people will always speak from an area of misunderstanding, mistrust, and hatred. They will continue to hate people who are different than them. They will continue to ignore others’ viewpoints and perspectives, and they will continue to deny the ideals of being an American. However, as Voltaire said: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

As Americans, it is your duty to let all people speak; you need to let all people speak because freedom of speech is the cornerstone of our democracy.