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The Fight for the First Amendment is still Prevalent in the United States

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I would like to begin by saying that I feel as though this is a very important topic, and one that needs to be thoughtfully pursued within our generation and generations to come. The first amendment has been in existence for 227 years, and as well as the other amendments embedded in our constitution, has benefited the lives of all Americans for many generations. One of the fundamental rights in this amendment is the notion that one has the right to free speech. This is often overlooked in our society, as many people across the world do not have this right.

This privilege is one that should not be overlooked by any means. Without freedom of speech in America, Martin Luther King would never  been able to deliver his beautiful “I Have a Dream” speech. Henceforth the revolution sparked by civil rights activist like himself and Rosa Parks would not be granted the ability to spark a revolution using their words. The same consequence would be evident over 100 years ago, if women like Susan B. Anthony weren’t permitted to voice their opinion on gender equality. What if women couldn’t vote? Out of 100 Americans that vote in the presidential elections today, 53 are female, and 47 are men.

 

Without room for contemplation and discussion surrounding polarizing issues in our county, great activists like Martin Luther King Jr. would never have been able to spark change.

 

All this to say, this right is fundamental in our society. If this is true, why is it being under attack in multiple facets. Take UC Berkeley for example. It’s a beautiful university, located in Berkeley, California. Just last fall, the university raised many eyebrows when a group on campus invited Republican speaker, Milo Yiannopoulos to speak on an array of topics. When information concerning the set date and meeting location was released to the students, a massive backlash ensued. In attempt to prevent him from being able to speak, over a thousand protesters gathered around the campus. The peaceful protest soon turned very violent… commercial-grade fireworks and rocks were hurled towards police, students ignited dangerous fires, and even smashed the nearby windows of the Berkeley Student Center, right where Milo was set to speak. Several republican students that were in attendance for the speech were even assaulted with pepper spray. The onslaught of violence and horror was all in attempt to prevent someone from presenting their views in a respectful manner. Why is it increasingly acceptable in our society to deny someone the opportunity to voice their opinions simply because they differ from ours.  Sadly, this is not the only example in recent history.

 

Flames climbed into the night sky as demeaning chants cried out.

 

We see this fear of open-mindedness and utter refusal to hear varied views of a subject all over our country. One of the most prevalent instances is within our universities. Just this week, Lake Ingle, a senior at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania, was kicked out of class for speaking up in a very polarizing discussion. Lake Ingle is a religious studies major, that was in the midst of a lecture in Christianity class. The professor presented a 15 minute Ted Talk by transgender ex-pastor Paula Stone Williams. Among other topics, the video discussed “sexism from men” and “male privilege.” After the presentation, the professor asked the women in attendance for their reaction to the video. After no women spoke up, Ingle spoke up, offering his point of view on biology and the gender wage gap… he told the professor that the view of biologists is that there are only two genders. After this comment, the professor kicked him out of class and told him to not return. Lake Ingle has since come forward concerning the incident saying, “My professor is violating my First Amendment rights because of the fact that my views and ideology is different from hers… So she took it on herself to silence and embarrass me – bully me – for speaking up in class.” He also went on to add, “It is my firmest belief that every human being has the freedom and right to identify, dress, and represent oneself as they see fit,” Ingle said. “I think this is all an attempt to silence my views personally because they contradict the ones she pushes in class…” If the school board backs the professor’s decision, the senior will not be able to graduate this may.

In my mind, this form of cultural decay is utterly unacceptable. America is the land of the free, and home of the brave. It is our priority to defend free speech, not ridicule those who exercise their right to respectfully share their views. In my mind, it’s not about left or right, democrat or republican, liberal or conservative. This is a right we should all fight to protect. It is the right to share ideas and views, that ultimately spark revolution and change. Abiding by the notion that we punish those who share their opinions only hurts our great nation. Lets discontinue shutting people out, because they have ideas that vary from our own. Lets get rid of the safe spaces, and create space for rigorous debate and conversation. In such conversation, the road is paved for fresh ideas and new perspectives to flourish. Let’s spark revolutions, cure diseases, create laws that benefit all, and most importantly…respect one another’s ability to speak out, even if we don’t believe in what is being said.

Just as the great Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter…”

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The Fight for the First Amendment is still Prevalent in the United States