Pick Your Favorite Amendment

Pick Your Favorite Amendment

Allen 081314Samantha Allen is a doctoral fellow in the Department of Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Emory University. That pretty much speaks for itself, but a peek at the Emory website tells us the following:

"Samantha holds a BA in Women's & Gender Studies and Linguistics from Rutgers University. Her research interests include feminist theory, queer theory, affect theory, and psychoanalytic studies. Her dissertation uses Silvan Tomkins' theory of affect as a vocabulary for understanding practices of sexual fetishism."


The would-be PhD typed a piece on a website called the Daily Dot, titled "5 Signs You're Dating a Reddit Troll." Being a Reddit troll, whatever that is, is apparently an undesirable quality in a potential mate, according to the future Dr. Allen.

Liking Seth McFarlane, whoever he is, is very bad, as is having an improper attitude toward women characters in video games.

But what interested me most was a section titled, "Which amendment in the Bill of Rights do you think is the most important?"

You will not be surprised to know that an appreciation of the Second Amendment does not make you a desirable date in the Allen book. I cannot print on a family website exactly what she said about it, but while the language might shock, the point of view would not.

What did surprise me was this little gem:

"First: This could be a huge warning sign. Trolls cite the First Amendment as frequently as college application essays cite The Road Not Taken. They think that it gives them the right to verbally harass, stalk, and threaten whomever they want without any consequences. If your man picks the First Amendment, just ask him to explain what it means. If he thinks it means that "it's a free country" and "people can say whatever they want," tell him to go back to the playground he learned his politics from and find a new boyfriend."

Well. You may have thought that even those who'd happily trash the right to bear arms would still support freedom of speech, religion and assembly. Guess not.

There's a reason the Founders put the First Amendment first. It's the core right, and the basis of all the others. The Second is vital, but it's vital mainly to protect the First. We exercise our First Amendment rights in the hope we never have to exercise our Second Amendment rights.

I have increasingly come to the conclusion that the First Amendment is in a lot more trouble than the Second. "It's a free country" was a commonplace expression when I was a boy, and it expressed the notion that, with a very few exceptions, you were free to say what you pleased: this in contrast to the conditions in the Soviet Union or what we then called Red China. Are you that free today? Certainly not in academia. Certainly not in the workplace. Certainly not in the arts or entertainment. Certainly not in politics.

At the extremes, this is no loss. We don't miss a race-baiter like Sen. Theodore Bilbo or an anti-Semite like Father Charles Coughlin. Polite political discourse beats hateful political discourse every time.

But there's clearly a wide-ranging effort afoot to muzzle free speech. For example, Brendan Eich, the CEO of the internet browser company Mozilla, was forced out of his job when it was discovered he had contributed to the California ballot initiative Proposition 8 that attempted to define marriage as between a man and a woman. At the time, that was exactly the public position of our current Commander-in-Chief. No matter, Eich was given the boot.

Those behind that effort were prone to say that Eich's freedom of speech was not impaired: if the storm troopers don't beat down your door and drag you off in the dead of night for what you say, you can speak freely.

That's a very crabbed and circumscribed view of our most fundamental freedom.

"You can speak your mind, but you may lose your job" is not freedom of speech. "You can say what you want, but we may try to close down your business" is not freedom of speech. "You are free to speak, but not if you are skeptical about global warming" is not freedom of speech.

In our devotion to the Second Amendment, let's never fail to have an equal devotion to the one that comes before it. There are those who hate and want to destroy both of them.

Oh, and what amendments does Prof. Allen like?

"Ninth: Your man picked the foundation for Roe v. Wade. Good egg!"

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