The Enlightenment sages who wrote the First Amendment into the US Constitution in 1791 created the most secure legal foundation for a real democracy in history thus far. By refusing to grant government the power to shut anyone up, no matter how obnoxious, the authors of the Bill of Rights ensured that even if the worst, most corrupt idiots managed to grab power they wouldn’t be able to silence their political enemies (in stark contrast to “the divine right” of kings, who dealt with the opposition by throwing it into a dungeon.) It’s just 45 words: “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.”
What the First Amendment really grants is the power of society to maintain its own standards over those of government. Over centuries, sometimes despite the most furious opposition, individuals have increased their participation and added the force of their lives, their words, and their ideas to the culture. And so the principle of free speech is growing, slowly and unsteadily, into the truth of its logic: each person, each member of the press, each citizen can believe, think, and speak independently and without fear of oppression. The same is true of Amendments Two through Ten: the Bill of Rights is a political structure built to safeguard a democratic state, but its implications in the personal lives of that state’s citizens are immediate and profound.
Text and Image via The Verge. Continue HERE