Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The First Amendment

There are days when I wonder (as we all do) if what I do and say makes any significant difference in this world.  Oh, well, I’ll say it anyway! It is my bounden duty to do so and my First Amendment right!

Al Smith (1873-1944) was the first Catholic nominee for President in 1928.  He wasn’t the “cleanest guy” in the world.  But then, who is (politician or non-politician)?  Smith was governor of New York four times and did a fairly good job, but having links with the notorious Tammany Hall machine that controlled New York City’s politics and being a Roman Catholic prevented him from reaching the White House.  It wasn’t the other party, the Republicans, who defeated Smith, it was his own party, the conservative Democrats, who could not tolerate a Catholic in the highest office in the land.  It would take another thirty-some years before that would happen even though we say we honor the First Amendment of the 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  (italics mine).”

Today we seem to honor the Second Amendment (at least the NRA interpretation of it) as being more important than the First!  Discrediting or denying the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances” is a far greater assault upon the Constitution than having to register and be licensed to own an assault rifle.   There is a reason why this freedom to assemble is the “First” Amendment and not the “Second.”  

O beautiful for patriot dream that sees beyond the
years thine alabaster cities gleam, undimmed by
human tears!...America! America!
God mend thine every flaw, confirm
thy soul in self-control, thy liberty in law.
Now back to Al Smith.  He once said to a self-important politician:  “Go stick your finger in a pail of water and take it out again, and see what a hole you have made.”  That seems to sum up the feelings  and frustrations of many Americans today.  How do we make a difference?  How can we be heard?  What can we do?  I, for one, am going to stick my finger in that pail of water—and if enough sound-minded citizens will do the same we might, just might, make a hole in it and preserve the First Amendment. 

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