Sons Of Bitches And Other Freedoms

Donald J Trump is free to call people he doesn’t like or agree with “sons of bitches” and want them fired for what they’ve done. You and I may disagree with him, may think less of him for his insult to others, but he can do it without any penalty or sanction from Government (if his action costs him your vote in the next election, that may be a “penalty” but that’s your call, not Government’s).

The Founding Fathers of our Republic enacted a brilliant Constitution but then worried it hadn’t been specific enough in safe guarding citizens liberties as against Government Control or Penalty so they enacted ten amendments to the Constitution (called the Bill of Rights).

James Madison wrote the First Amendment which protects five freedoms from Government Control or Interference. And Freedom of Speech is one of them.

Sure, there are a few exceptions. In 1969, after decades of court decisions that postulated false premises beginning with Justice Holmes famous dictum (later overturned) that there is no right to yell “Fire” in a crowded theatre,” the Supreme Court found that even speech advocating violence by members of the Ku Klux Klan is protected under the First Amendment, unless the speech “is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.” But there is no exception which will allow Government to punish Donald J Trump because he calls football players who do things he doesn’t like “sons of bitches.”

Madison and his colleagues had in mind protecting the “market place of ideas” that the philosophers John Milton and John Stewart Mill advocated. Like the other free market places which sort through goods and services, casting out those which don’t work and rewarding those that do work, the unfettered ability to raise a new thought is even more important than the ability to market a new soap.

The First Amendment gives us the freedom to express our idea (thought, view, feeling, etc.) whether anyone else likes it or agrees with it. Because – just because – it might be the best idea for the future but if not allowed to be expressed, “who knew?”

In my imagination, I can only suppose the first person in olden times who publicly argued against “drawing and quartering,” the method of executing a thief by strapping his four limbs to four different horses which were then loosed to run in four different directions, thus tearing his body limb from limb, was perhaps himself “drawn and quartered” for such heretical speech against the public order (soft on crime, you know). But that idea of his prevailed because with the passage of time people in the “marketplace” decided such punishment was cruel and was therefore abandoned.

To put it bluntly, and finally simply, The First Amendment was not written to protect popular speech. If we all like what someone says, why the speaker needs no protection to speak – we congratulate that person as thoughtful and right. It is the very speech with which we initially disagree, it is unpopular speech, that needs protection.

And thanks to James Madison and his colleagues, Donald J Trump and the rest of us have it!

But guess what? The First Amendment also protects the right of those people Trump condemned as “sons of bitches” to do what he didn’t like.

They said nothing that could be heard but “Speech” as protected by the First Amendment is not necessarily verbal. What they “said” could be seen.

Madison and the Courts after he wrote understood that “speech” can take other forms to express beliefs. They knew that expression of ideas in non-violent silent ways is just as important, often even more powerful, than verbal speech. Throwing the tea into Boston Harbor told the British what the colonists thought about the “tea tax” in a more effective way that shouting against it in the village square.

When India’s Mahatma Gandhi drew hundreds of thousands to march silently with him against British rule, the British could not stand.

When Martin Luther King, Jr., used his march to Selma (along with his oratory) to move a nation further along the road to racial justice, the police with their clubs and truncheons could not prevail.

When young people (and old people) in the 1960s and ‘70s wore T-shirts with anti-Vietnam war slogans and burned the American flag in protest of what their Country was doing, all the power that Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon could muster could not stop the nation from eventually going their way.

And yes, when Athletes bow a knee or raise a fist in the air or otherwise decline to participate in the patriotic gestures of our Country, they are making statements about American discrimination and American justice which will be tested in the “market place” not just by the majority sentiment of the moment. The first real protests against the Vietnam war were met at the time with near-solid opposition by the vast majority of Americans but tested true in the flowing course of history.

So go ahead Donald J Trump, call the people who say and do things in silent protest of our Countries actions unpatriotic “sons of bitches” and go ahead athletes and others with your silent protests against things you see as wrong and want changed. The market place of Ideas will consider it all and History will tell us who was right.

I have no doubt in the case raised by Donald J Trump that once again, history will tag him with the one word he fears most of all – LOSER!

For those who disagree with the First Amendment’s protections, I say you’re welcome to go to some other Country that restricts free speech. The Soviet Union was one such Country and Ronald Reagan, who loved to tell jokes about the Soviets, had one about Free Speech.

He said a Soviet and American were arguing one day about which Country allowed the most free speech. The American said “Why, I can go into the Oval office, pound my fist on the desk and tell President Reagan I don’t like the way he’s running the Country.

“So can I,’’ said the Soviet, “I can do the same thing.’’

“I can go into President Gorbachev’s office in the Kremlin, pound my fist on the desk, and tell him I don’t like the way President Reagan is running his Country.” Telling Gorbachev off about the way he was running his Country was not in the cards.

So, if you think it’s better elsewhere, all I can say is goodbye…

…and good luck.

 

 

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