Thursday, October 15, 2009

Putting money where my mouth is, I guess

So, we have a "rule", in this house. A homework rule. Any one who is parenting a teenager can appreciate this. Its a known fact, sometimes, kids just don't do their homework.

The rule, simply, is this. For every missed assignment, MM, or I will assign another assignment to be done, as well as making up what she has missed. To say the least, MG is probably not impressed with this, but, it is usually effective.
Due to one thing or another, there was some history missing, these last few weeks. I love history. I am a history freak. But I had to kind of wrack my brain, for what I was going to ask MG to do. I ended up with asking her to give me a discussion of The Bill of Rights. 750 words for each amendment. (I know, I know, thats A LOT! but I had/have my reasons, get over it).
Well, she is unpleased. And, I started thinking. Is it too much?
So, I went, and started this assignment my own self. I wrote 875 words in an hour.
Yes, I know. I am a grown up, with experience, not a pissed off teenaged girl. But, especially the first amendment, she should be able to come up with 750 words, easily. It is a powerful amendment. So, here is my slap-dash paper on HER assignment. Enjoy. Because I have the freedom of speech!

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

The first amendment is, perhaps, one of the most important paragraphs in the Bill of Rights, and, possibly, the entire Constitution. If we look at it, in sections, we can see why our forefathers thought it important, and, why it still resonates with the standards we try to hold our country to, today.

Starting with the first line: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise therof”.

Lets consider this. Basically, this is guaranteeing the people Freedom of Religion. It also guarantees that that there will be no “national religion” established by the government. This was an extremely important thing to our forefathers, especially because most of them came over seeking this freedom. Organized, and usually forced religion was common in Europe during this time, which ever religion the King (or Queen) happened to follow was the religion the people were to follow. Sometimes this changed so fast, I would swear that the commoners would get whip-lash. It wasn’t so easy for the royalty, either. Though they were “next in line” for the throne, the current King or Queen would often declare someone else as their heir to the throne, based on what religion they followed. Because of this, people frequently hid their religion, and practiced in secret, while attending the church they were “supposed” to be following in public.

Another frequent problem during this time was the fact that if you were caught practicing a different religion, odds are, you would be killed. History shows us that many thousands of people have died for their religious convictions. It is no wonder to me our forefathers included this in our constitution, wanting to avoid all the strife they had recently left.

In todays society, if we debate freedom of religion, the conversation may have a tendency to become very volatile, very quickly. In recent history, religion has been removed from schools, from courthouses, from coins, and even from the Pledge of Allegiance. Multiple cases involving religion have come up in the Supreme Court, and usually take YEARS to debate. In my opinion, here, the sticky phrase is “prohibiting the free exercise thereof”. I interpret this to read that the government cannot prohibit people exercising their religion of choice. Ever. So, if kids want to pray in school, who is the government to say they can’t? If a judge wants to display the ten commandments, well, why not? (this is, of course, my own opinion. Debate is welcome). I also, however, hold with anyones right to NOT practice a religion. It works both ways. If someone chooses not to say “in God we trust”, or pray with their friends/classmates, well, that is also a freedom that I believe in.

Another integral part of the first amendment is the second half of it, freedom of speech, the press, and the right to people to peaceably assemble. The importance of this just boggles my mind. This amendment is so packed full of importance.

Freedom of speech is another thing our forefathers had to include, based on how frequently people were killed or imprisoned for what they said. I cannot imagine living in a situation where anything you said, or did, was automatically held against you, and odds are if it was inflammatory enough you would end up swinging from a rope. I am extremely thankful our forefathers had the forethought to toss this one in the mix. Without freedom of speech, would any of us blog? What would our newspapers read like? We would be constantly looking over our shoulder, to ascertain who was near us, and could either misinterpret, or, turn us in for what we said. Very George Orwellian to me.

Where it goes awry in our day and age, in my humble opinion, is this whole freedom of the press thing. Many publications and shows interpret this section of the article as their right to follow, photograph, and harass anyone they choose to. I have a problem with this. It has become almost a sport for them, and their excuse is that the people they are following, usually celebrities, have chosen to be in the public eye, and are, therefore, fair game. I think our forefathers are spinning in their graves over this one.

To be able to peaceably assemble is also an integral part of this. The key word here, is peaceably. This section of the amendment is bandied around frequently at any protest, especially if that protest is interrupted by the police, who are part of the government. The first amendment is automatically cited and invoked by the protesters. They are usually correct, unless, of course, it’s been a less than peaceful protest.

Lets not forget the last of this amendment, though, “and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances”.

How often to we petition our government for a redress of grievances? Do any of us KNOW how do this? Anyone, Bueller, Bueller?

Thats what I thought.....

I could have gone ON AND ON AND ON... for centuries (aren't you glad I didn't?)

** edit. She finished the first amendment, after we had a talk about it, and I explained a few things to her about the amendment. NOW on to the second one, gun control! Yay! I'll be doing that one, too....


sybil law said...

Yep- it's easily a topic I could go on and on about. She can do it. And if she doesn't like it, she should do her homework. :)

Daryl said...

As one history geek to another: that rocked!

And its especially affecting because this past week here in NYC we had a heinous crime, a beating of a man whose only 'crime' was to be openly gay ... to my horror recently installed security cameras caught the 3 minute beating and the news stations aired it ... both the cretins who hammered the poor guy are now under arrest .. but I had to get up and walk out of the room I was that upset ..

Freedom of speech .. freedom of religion .. freedom to be who we are should never ever be glossed over

I would love to see/read what MG wrote....