Benjamin, Aaronson, Edinger & Patanzo, P.A.

First Amendment, Use it or Lose it!

By and large America has always failed to understand why people and countries across the globe have particular animosity towards us. After all, we are taught that we are the land of the free and the home of the brave. We are taught that we stand for truth and justice. We are taught that the United States always takes the high road.

Unfortunately, many around the world do not see it the same way. We talk of justice while having supported governments throughout Central American who subjugated their people and silenced opposition with death squads. We did this so fruit companies and other special interest groups could pay pennies for labor and reap monumental profits.

We overturned an elected government in Chili because it had communist leanings. At the same time, telling the world that we support democracy. We chastised the Chinese, North Korea and Iran for the lack of personal freedoms to their citizens. At the same time we welcome Saudi princes to the White House, knowing that half their population, women, do not even deserve the basic civil rights.

The history of the world, since the beginning of the United States, is littered with acts by our country that are inapposite to the ideals that we say we stand for, and the goals we seek to achieve. Certainly, geopolitics plays a large part and since our tentacles reach across the globe, we find ourselves in more situations than any other country and therefore, the chance for hypocrisy is greater than for any other land. And of course, the world is a better place because the United States exists than it would be if we did not. We are the worlds policemen and even policemen sometimes get it wrong.

From a Freedom of Speech, Press and Expression standpoint, our actions of late once again fail the hypocrisy test. We champion Freedom of Speech and the attendant freedoms as the most sacred and cherished beliefs that we have. We state that we have gone to war in the name of these freedoms and that we will fight to the death to preserve them. Yet, talk is cheap.

Last month, the terrorist attack on the French Magazine “Charlie Hebdo” was followed by the remnants of the staff publishing another edition on time. Rather than cower and shrink from their belief in the First Amendment, “Charlie Hebdo” once again put out a satirical cover with the Prophet Mohammad emblazoned upon it. They did this knowing that their lives were on the line. They did this in the name of Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Expression.

However, the leading news organization in the United States and around the world, CNN, refuses to show that magazine cover, even though they have covered the “Charlie Hebdo” story around the clock. That front page is, in fact, a story. Yet, the higher ups have shown their cowardice and have given up some of their First Amendment Right for safety. Of course, persons wiser than us have stated “that when you give up your rights in the name of safety, you achieve neither”.

Although “Charlie Hebdo” stands up for its rights of Freedom of Speech, who can forget the December whimpering of Sony movies when they decided to pull the movie “The Interview” because of fear of North Korean reprisal. Even President Obama was quick to chastise their lack of courage and their giving away their First Amendment Rights so readily. The heads of Sony Pictures would be embarrassed to be in the same room with those of “Charlie Hedbo”.

Our hypocracy in regards to the First Amendment does not end there. According to the Moslem religion, pictures of the Prophet Mohammad and certainly caricatures of him are forbidden and are blasphemy. We pretend that we do not understand how Moslems could be offended by such etchings and the jokes and humor they convey. Yet by writing the word “Nigger”, we are sticking our necks out, not in the sense of the “Charlie Hedbo” danger, but in the sense of public recrimination. After all, we have now determined as a society that the “N word” should not be printed, should not be said, and should not even be thought.

We have gone so far as to justify outrage over its use. We have banned it in the same way that the Moslem religion bans any attack in any form of the Prophet Mohammad. No one stands up to the rights for someone to use that foul, derogatory word.

Who can forget, although many do not remember until reminded, when Sinead O’Connor ripped up the picture of the Pope on Saturday Night Live. The outlash and the criticism of her were deafening. It might have actually been responsible for the tailspin of her career.

So we as a people chide those who do not believe in Freedom of Speech and of the Press. We fail to understand the outrage by others of attacks on their Prophet. We claim to hold First Amendment Freedoms more sacred than any others and yet show a willingness to fight for them less than others who do not hold them so dear. We vilify those that use racial slurs and attack the Pontiff. In essence, we see things through our eyes and have yet to learn to see things through others. We are consistent with our inconsistency and we should understand when others are critical of our hypocracy.

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