Bruce Burleson – February 12, 2019

What Kind of Society Do We Want to Be?

What kind of society do we want to be?  That is the question constantly being asked by people of all ideological and political persuasions.  Collectivists believe we should share everything regardless of who produces wealth or under what conditions such production occurs.  Individualists believe each of us should benefits from the fruit of our own efforts.  Which side is correct?  America is divided sharply along these lines, and such division is causing violence.  But which side is right?  If you’re familiar with my positions on any number of issues, you probably think I’m going to say: the individualists!


Wrong.  This isn’t about who is right or who is wrong.  It’s about equality under the law.


What exactly does equality under the law mean?  It begins with the First Amendment: 


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 Founding Fathers didn’t insert the word “except when” anywhere in the language here.  But to listen to people screaming from the barricades, you would think the First Amendment had been suffixed with “except for people we disagree with or ideas we don’t like.”  Or, “unless it’s triggering or hurts our feelings.”


If the Founding Fathers had been concerned with feelings, the First Amendment would never have been written, because it was never about avoiding getting offended or triggered.  In the early days of the United States, America had just won a war against a king and parliament that suppressed free speech and a free press.  Perhaps the British monarch was “triggered” when he read the Declaration of Independence.


The point is, who cares?


It doesn’t matter if the left is offended or not.  It doesn’t matter if the right is offended or not.  What does matter is that in this country, the Constitution and the laws apply to everyone. And that includes the First Amendment.  A quote attributed to Voltaire, or perhaps Evelyn Beatrice Hall (depending on who you want to believe): “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it.


I disagree with Richard Spencer.  I disagree with the socialists, the communists, Antifa, some of the “alt-right,” the neo-conservatives, and with racists and haters.  However, just like I have the right to publish this article on Liberty Clarion Call, all of them have the right to express themselves in public.


The sole limitation of the First Amendment is that one does not have the right to use their speech to deny someone else his or her free speech rights.  And yet we see that happening more and more.


So, getting back to the original question: What kind of society do we want to be?  I want a society characterized by a culture of civility and respect for everyone’s rights—a culture that sees no need to coddle the ideology of one side or the other.  A society where we can debate, and discuss, and arrive at our own conclusions. That kind of society is only possible if the First Amendment is respected by all.