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On Freedom of Speech in the United States

Perhaps one of the most enduring things where the United States is concerned is its founding documents.

Many have called, for example, the United States Constitution all but—if not—a miraculous document.

I’m not entirely sure I would go that far. What I would say, however, is that the Constitution is in many ways a marvelous work, worthy of study and consideration.

This includes most certainly, the Bill of Rights (though in my view, not necessarily all of the amendments that followed). Take the First Amendment as an example. I would venture that many don’t realize just how concise it is. In its entirety, that enumerated right says:

Amendment I. 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.

Overall, it’s literally amazing how concise and to the point was the penning of this text. It probably shouldn’t be so amazing, but in the modern day, so many people run about doing and saying things without giving them the time and consideration they deserve. The result is obvious, besides that many perpetually trot about with egg on their collective faces, many corrections and retractions must occur.

You might’ve guessed that I brought up this amendment to the Constitution for another cause. If you did, you can count yourself either sufficiently astute to have picked up on what I was doing, or perhaps somebody who knows my writing style well enough to realize this is the case. Obviously, there are other possibilities, but those seem to me to be the most likely.

With that being said though, let’s get on with it!

It doesn’t take a genius to look at the First Amendment’s text and come to certain conclusions about its intent. To begin with, the first words of this wonderful gem are “Congress shall make no laws…” So the intent of this text, was not to place any restriction on any entity but Congress, and that by the way, the Federal Congress. Anybody making the assumption or coming to the conclusion that this text was intended to place restrictions on any entity but the Federal Congress, would be incorrect.

I like to think that, though this is the case, both “subordinate” governmental entities (I quote subordinate because that is not a true or fair description of the entities in question, but that is a matter for another article), and the people of the United States in general hold similar values where it’s reasonable for them so to do. Though I like to believe that such is the case, there is no requirement in the United States Constitution for them to do so.

Further, there are more than a few instances where governments, companies and other bodies, and individuals do not support the idea of freedom of speech.

You want an example? As a former member of the United States Air Force I, like many of my peers, superiors and subordinates, had a security clearance. I’ll not go into detail on the level of that clearance or the extent to which I “used” it. What I will do, is make something crystal clear to those never having had a clearance, and reiterate to those who did or do, something considered of grave importance with regard to it.

At some point along the way (in actuality at multiple points), it was made very well understood by me, that I was not to divulge information gained as that was marked as classified in some manner after having been allowed access to it. There were limitations in place that made it so I and others like me, could pass the information in question only to those authorized to receive it, who could be positively identified, and who had a need to know. You may not like that or agree with it, but that is the reality of the agreement I—and if you had or have a clearance—you made.

Were I to choose to release any of that information without approval, I should be aware—as should others—that the result of such a release may be consequences that are far from desirable. Like it or not, that is a restriction on my (and your) freedom of speech.

Want an example that is likely more meaningful to more people? If, like me, you work in a field where information is a commodity that cannot always be shared without damage occurring to the entity for whom I work, you likely signed a “non-disclosure, non-compete agreement” with that entity. In so doing, you indicated that you would keep certain proprietary information, well proprietary, not to put too fine a point on it.

Keep in mind too, that as a former member of the U.S. Military, I was forbidden to do things like, protest while in uniform. And many businesses and other entities have similar requirements as conditions of continued employment.

It’s not so much that you cannot breach confidentiality agreements or codes of conduct, it’s more that in doing so, there will almost certainly be consequences.

One of the “hot topics” of the present day, is whether National Football League players have the “right to” protest, by kneeling during the playing of the National Anthem of the United States.

The first and foremost thing that must be said about this is, “It is not a ‘First Amendment issue.’” Wether they do or do not choose to protest during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner has not one blessed thing to do with the Government (really at any level).

It does, however, have to do with the contractual obligations to which players have obliged themselves. As I understand it, as players in the NFL, those individuals are obliged to:

  1. Be on the field at the playing of the National Anthem
  2. Be standing as a sign of respect when it is played

I’m sure there are exceptions to these “rules.” I’m equally sure most of the “protestors” are likely not excepted individuals.

To be clear, this is about meeting the expectations of agreements to which players have assented, not the First Amendment to the Constitution.

As for me? I have no “dog in this fight.” I pay as little attention to professional sports as I’m able to. They neither interest me, nor do I find a compelling reason to support them.

Far too much of the time, a bunch of entitled brats go out and throw around balls like they’re something special. Then sadly, their stars “fade into the distance.” The result is a lot of often broke, entitled individuals who think I should be paying them mind for some reason. Forgive me for refusing to support that.

That’s my “two cents” and you’re welcome to it.

Okay, having slightly exceeded my “desired word count.” Permit me now to wish you the best of days, and thank you for your attention to my drivel.

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