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Etc.: SOS 1A

POSTED October 2, 2017 9:57 a.m.

Every so often this page includes the text of Amendment I of the U.S. Constitution:

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.

The title of this page shows what your favorite weekly newspaper editor thinks is the most important thing about this nation. Other nations have flags, and other nations have national anthems. This nation spelled out for everyone to see the rights of Americans to challenge our government, to worship as we want (or to not worship), and to free expression, regardless of what politician or party we support or oppose.

Sept. 17 was Constitution Day, a day that should be a national holiday with as many parades and civic celebrations and observances as Independence Day. The Declaration of Independence spelled out that our Creator endows us with inalienable rights including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The Constitution and the Bill of Rights (

This page also occasionally includes the text of Article I, section 3 of the state Constitution:

Every person may freely speak, write and publish his sentiments on all subjects, beingresponsible for the abuse of that right, and no laws shall be passed to restrain or abridge the liberty of speech or of the press. In all criminal prosecutions or indictments for libel, the truth may be given in evidence, and if it shall appear to the jury that the matter charged as libelous be true, and was published with good motives and for justifiable ends, the party shall be acquitted; and the jury shall have the right to determine the law and the fact.

Unfortunately, it seems a growing number of Americans’ commitment to free speech extends only to the free speech with which they agree. The same people who have wanted colleges to ban speakers of a certain political viewpoint and want to get rid of symbols of the Confederacy are now applauding National Football League players for exercising their free-speech rights before games last weekend. And the same people who do not favor Confederate-symbol bans and favor free speech on college campuses are now criticizing NFL players for exercising their free speech rights last weekend.

It shouldn’t be surprising that that selective free speech support extends to many of our elected officials. (Particularly those who don’t like being criticized.) This is despite the fact that presidents swear every fourth Jan. 20 to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Members of Congress (and members of the armed services) swear that they will “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic” and that they will “bear true faith and allegiance to the same.” Wisconsin legislators swear to “support the constitution of the United States and the constitution of the state of Wisconsin.” 

This non-support of disagreeable free speech extends to people who refuse to buy from businesses because the business owner’s views may not agree with the consumer’s views. That is what keeps a lot of business people, who are more attuned with what’s going on in local government because what local government does directly affects them, from running for elective office, which is a big minus for all of us. (That’s why I keep saying that I’d rather be governed by a local chamber of commerce than by that area’s elected officials.)

This page includes many points of view that I disagree with, but those writers have the right to possess those points of view, and they deserve a forum for others to read those points of view, agree or disagree with them, and if they wish express their own agreement or disagreement. Another sad example of our increasing disrespect for contrary views is the growing number of people who watch TV channels, listen to radio stations, and read publications or websites that agree with their own point of view, instead of perusing something that forces them to think about their points of view. That’s as wrong as people who decide their opinion on a subject based on what their favorite politician or, worse, celebrity says about it.

I have to wonder why things are the way they are. Certainly politics grows nastier by the day, because the stakes in elections grow by the election cycle, because government grows in its power at every level regardless of which party or who is in charge by the day. But have we lost the self-control to disagree without being disagreeable? Or do people simply have viewpoints that they don’t want to have challenged or challenge themselves?

How about these radical thoughts: Think for yourself, respect someone else’s difference(s) from your own opinion(s), and engage in our God-given right to freedom, including the freedom to have a different point of view.

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