Fear, and the First Amendment.

Fear at the First Amendment, by Daniel Shaw

In September of 2010 Terry Jones, a church pastor in Gainesville Florida, caused a worldwide uproar by scheduling an event called “burn a Koran day”. After receiving phone calls from the Defense Secretary Robert Gates and multiple visits from FBI agents, Jones cancelled the event. The opposition to the event was very large to say the least. Some opposed the event for the sake of tolerance while others cited security risks that would likely result from such actions. The US Attorney General Eric Holder referred to the Koran burning as “idiotic and dangerous” while a spokesman for the State Department called it “un-American”. The public destruction of any symbol, book, or flag that represents the values and beliefs of any group of people is disrespectful, but what can possibly be more un-American than a government spokesperson calling an exercise in one’s freedom of speech un-American?

The willfully surrendering of one’s freedom of speech is one such idea that is as un-American as a hammer and sickle embroidered flag flying over the capital building. When Bibles were burned in Afghanistan by US forces in 2009, the US government stood behind the decision, saying that if Bibles were distributed it would give the impression that we were forcing a religion on the people of Afghanistan (Apparently forcing a form of government on them is just fine). Is this double standard due to the reason for the burnings, or is it something more? How is destroying the Bible acceptable as long as it is for diplomatic reasons, while destroying the Koran as an expression of feeling is utterly outrageous? The answer is fear. It’s not the fear of offending Muslims or a fear of seeming intolerant of the Muslim faith. It’s the fear of a violent Muslim minority that has driven the world to place limits on freedom of speech.

Proponents for political correctness say that this dilution is necessary because it insures the civil liberties of all Americans by denouncing racism and other intolerances. The idea is to keep racist, sexist, and religious intolerant comments or ideas from being accepted as the norm, thus creating a tolerant and demographically sensitive society. They often consider the Don Imus case a win for political correctness because a large amount of people came together to influence the outcome of the situation.

Imus made a derogatory comment about the Rutgers women’s basketball team during a live broadcast and was fired from CBS as a result. In this situation CBS was well within its rights as a private company to set a precedence of language or ideas that it will not tolerate in its broadcasts. Surprisingly, there was even pressure from civil right activists to have charges filed against Imus, citing his comments as a hate crime. If a company decides that offensive comments or language will not be tolerated then that is their choice, but to peruse criminal charges for an idea or name calling is absurd. At least it should be absurd for the government to involve itself in such matters, but unfortunately for one Maryland man this absurdity became a reality.

According to the US Justice Department, Ilya Sobolevskiy, a Maryland resident, was sentenced to serve twelve months in prison and to pay a fine of $3000.00 for sending a threatening email to a member of the Central Illinois Mosque and Islamic Center. Sobolevskiy stated in his email that “He would do whatever it takes to eradicate Islam”. Other than making a threat via email from three states away, Sobolevskiy committed no crime. Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez of the Civil Rights Division stated “We have no tolerance for threats of violence fueled by bigotry, and we will aggressively prosecute such actions”. The ruling Judge in the decision was obviously not familiar with the US definition of terrorism when he called it “an act of terrorism”. If Sobolevskiy was prosecuted, why did the DOJ refuse to prosecute Black Panther party members who were videotaped making violent threats, face to face, to voters while carrying the tools to commit such acts? Better yet, there has been no thought crime filed against Younes Abdullah Mohammed for his Anti-American rhetoric, Mujahedeen recruiting, and specific threats of terrorism against non-Muslim Americans recorded by CNN on the streets of New York City.

There is an underlying Islamaphobia that can be seen in the idea of political correctness as it pertains to religion. The politically correct advocating crowd would call the topic of this essay a product of what they feel is this author’s Islamaphobia. On the contrary, I would argue that their fear driven, willful omittance of the truth is their own version of Islamaphobia. An example of this can be found when The New York Times refused to print the Jyllands-Posten Muhammed cartoons. In defense of their decision, an editorial for The New York Times stated “It’s a reasonable choice for a news organization that usually refrains from gratuitous assaults on religious symbols”. Of course the Times did not refrain from printing the elephant dung covered Virgin Mary with cutouts from pornographic magazines, or the crucifix in urine photo by Andres Serrano that they so diligently defended with freedom of expression rhetoric. And why would they refrain from posting content that would offend Christians? The worst the Christians will do is picket, or go on TV and complain about it.

Somewhere along the way we began to muzzle ourselves and each other, we decided that we should no longer speak our minds or allow others to speak theirs. Hiding behind a guise of tolerance and anti-bigotry, we have chosen politically correct terminology and phrases that dilute what we are actually thinking. I am not suggesting that we should not choose our words with respect for others, and I am not saying we should uncontrollably spout from our mouths every thought that enters our mind. I am suggesting that if we as a country wish to retain our freedom of speech than we must not willfully surrender it to the double standard that is political correctness. Benjamin Franklin said “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety”. Those words are as true today as they were in 1775. We must speak the truth even when the truth is not popular, we must speak the truth when no one wants to hear it, and when it is dangerous to speak the truth we must then speak it louder and with more vigor than ever.





8 thoughts on “Fear, and the First Amendment.”

  1. Nothing pisses me off more than hypocracy (sp) but unfortunately we as a country did it to ourselves. We are finally to the point that if a minority group feels threatened or slighted they will complain that the “majority”, be it whites, christians, republicans, Americans, are squashing them down and basically hurt their feelings and because they are the “minority” they feel that they can’t stand up for themselves and basically cry about it enough until something is done.

    In a civilized society, I don’t believe that the “majority” are trying to be bullies but rather just speaking what is in their minds. We are also to the point that we don’t care about the “majority” and that goes against what makes a democracy great. Why is our own Government, who is built on the blood of freedom, doing everything they can to squash our own freedoms? If anything I would think that the Government would support our God-given freedoms. Now I’m not saying that we as a people can say what ever we want. There are consequences to everything…BUT we should have the courage to stand up for what we believe in.

    I’m not too keen on burning Korans but I whole-heartedly support it. Let the guy do it, but the consequence may be at the very least an angry protest or it could cause his church to get burned down. I don’t agree with extremeism as a consequence. Drawing a picture of Mohammed with a bomb on his head doesn’t deserve death threats or getting killed…at the most maybe getting called an idiot by some, but death doesn’t fit the “crime” per se.

    We are already screwed and our current Government is only going to make things worse…maybe to never return to reason. It’s unfortunate because there isn’t anywhere left to go. People come to the USA to escape oppressive Governments and peoples, but it is those very people who are being the oppressors and WE ARE BENDING OVER AND TAKING IT.

  2. As a writer and a teacher, I am offended when anyone burns any book, but my way of responding to that is to say what I have to say. I don’t have the right to go through life without being offended. I will support your right to express yourself in any manner that isn’t an immediate threat of actual violence.

    What is at the heart of any fundamentalist’s reaction is the fear that his idea isn’t strong enough to defend itself without government support, but good ideas can stand on their own. Bad ones will be laughed out of existence. We only need the force of government to step in when someone is committing bad acts that harm others. Until then, we just need to accept that the world wasn’t built to make us happy.

  3. The 1st Amendment is far more dangerous than any
    other amendment. Especially coupled with a “media”
    willing to LIE based on the right to free speech.
    Talk about killing any public official, as an
    indirect threat. It will get you closer scrutiny than
    exercising your 2nd Amendment rights by purchasing
    more than 1 firearm per month, for one year, at the
    same gun-store. Even if it’s a “sporting” arm. Most
    of which were “military arms” at one time or another…
    And the 1st isn’t guaranteed as any other God given
    right. The Second is an outright deceleration as of
    civil disobedience against tyrants, as a measure to
    overthrow our very own federal government. Exercise
    your 1st Amendment rights about overthrowing our very
    government, and see what it get’s you. Even worse
    after the 9-11 attacks. Funny thing-ALL THESE RIFLE
    This is JzT- and I do not advocate the overthrow of
    the U.S. Government
    P.S: Our own Constitution declares that such
    uprisings shall not be trivial, and are welcome when
    our own government fails us…

  4. That post hits the nail on the head Daniel. As long as we allow fear to dictate the parameters of the exercise of our First Amendment rights we’re being held hostage by people no better than common criminals. It cannot be allowed.

  5. Broadway is releasing a new show produced by Trey Parker and Matt Stone making fun of Mormons. I wonder if the Defense Secretary made his way to broadway to stop production of that show? Definitely not. Islam has become a minority of left protection. I love the hypocrosy. When a quoran is burned government infringes rights acting to stop the demonstration out of fear of Islamic retailiation. When Mormons are mocked on broadway there is no fear of Mormon retailiation and no act to infringe the right to poke fun at Mormons. Why, because the Mormon faith 100% adopts the principle rights of the first amendment.

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