Good morning, today we are going to talk about censorship and how I feel about it. I have always been a fan of the least amount censorship possible. I truly believe that for us to remain a free society we have a duty to keep censorship at a minimum. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says: “Congress shall make NO law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or the press; of the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” I would like to break this down with some examples of what this could include as well as explain why I believe it is a personal responsibility to censor one’s world as opposed to the government’s job and how censorship could cause the downfall of a society.
First let’s look at the First Amendment, the first line being: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;” my understanding of this leads me to believe we should not be stopping polygamous groups from their practice of polygamy. Now I hear you shouting “What about the children?!” It is an unfortunate truth that a few of these groups practice underage marriage and systematic rape of the women and girls. This alone does not mean we should ban the practice of polygamy but should be examining why this perversion is happening in the first place. I could probably go on for an entire paper on why polygamy should not be banned in the U.S. but we don’t have that kind of time and that’s not why we are here today.
Secondly let’s take a look at the next bit of the First Amendment, “or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press;” here we see something that I think we are forced to look at a lot more in our current political climate. There is a lot of talk about “fake news” and our current president is all about quieting opinions that do not match his own or go against him. This is not ok in my book, and goes back to personal accountability and self-policing. If you do not want to hear about the liberal view on Donald Trump, don’t watch those news programs, don’t read that article. By limiting what the press can say we are looking at a very biased view of the world.
Thirdly we are going to look at the last bit of the amendment, “or the right of the people to peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” Here I feel we are looking at something that directly allows us to tell the government that we disagree, that the people do not feel the way congress does. This takes us full circle here really, looking at censorship and our given ability to self-police.
I believe that the First Amendment is our given right to self-police and not have the government censor us. I honestly feel that very little should be censored. I very much believe in self-accountability. I feel that the only ones who should be in charge of what we read or see is ourselves or in the case of younger children, parents. I do not feel that someone else should be in charge of what I see. Up to and including things such as child pornography, which in of itself is illegal but still readily available on the internet. One can argue that by not censoring what goes on the internet that we can perhaps track down the people who are producing these illegal things. Personal accountability is key in this argument I believe. However, suggesting that parents should be in charge of what their children see is also a slippery slope, at what age is it acceptable to let your children navigate the world on their own? How young is too young to access ‘questionable’ content? I suppose that also would have to be up to the individual parent as to when they feel that their child has developed enough cognitive reasoning to know right from wrong and be able to police their own activities, this would be different for every person and in some cases may never develop.
I don’t think censorship protects any of us, only gives us the illusion of a safe bubble that we live in hoping that the outside world won’t get us from in here. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas in The One Un-American Act says, “Restriction of free thought and free speech is the most dangerous of all subversion. It is the one un-American act that could most easily defeat us.” and I agree totally. It is a theme that has been repeated in a number of dystopian novels such as, Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” and Orwell’s “1984”. There is a reason that these type of books scare us and make us think. They challenge us to look at our world and at things that are happening to our society and what could happen if things get out of hand. I hope to see a world where people start to realize that they are in fact in charge of what they see and instead of trying to keep others from seeing what they don’t like just look away instead.
A famous bear once said “Only you can prevent forest fires!” and I think that can be applied here. Only you can control what you read, and you can’t prevent others from reading things that may cause you harm. Also it is not your job to police what they are reading, and G-d help us if that ever becomes a job. I am reminded of the book “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury (which itself has ended up on the banned book list). In Fahrenheit 451 books are rounded up by government officials and burned, the title Fahrenheit 451 being a reference to the temperature at which books burn. This may seem like an extreme thing that would never happen but book burnings are a thing that has happened. This form of extreme censorship is a practice that still happens today and has the possibility to keep happening and even get worse if we do not take it upon ourselves to meter what we consume via text and other media. It’s about personal responsibility. Without access to controversial materials we cannot have open dialogues about the subject matter. Without open dialogues about the issues we cannot grow. Without growth we stagnate and as with water, a mind that is stagnant is not a healthy mind. A society that refuses to grow and becomes stagnant will collapse like a flan in a cupboard.