Thursday, August 21, 2008

Goose Quills and Onionskin, and your rights.

Okay here we go… How many people out there know what their rights are, under the Constitution of the United States of America?

More importunately, as we have been told, the rights for the “Little People” like you and I, are derived from the “Bill of Rights” or the first ten amendments. Then they did such a good job on the first ten that they gave us a bunch more. We now have twenty-seven in all.

The Constitution of the United States pretty much sets up how the county is to run and how to do it. Because this is going to be educational for people like you and I, that all have their favorite amendment, and don’t know a whole lot about the rest, we will discuss what we think about the amendments in layman’s terms. I hope people will ask dumb questions, and I hope that they will get good answers, because we are all skating on many edges these days, and it might be a good thing to know what rights that we are entitled to.

I know that your rights don’t make any difference, if our government won’t respect them, but what the hell, wouldn’t you like to know, just for kicks, what you’re losing?

I know that there are people that know the Constitution and Bill of Rights by rote, and can recite them all, and know what they mean. Most of us are not like that and we would appreciate your learned opinion on the Amendments. But, remember we are amateurs, so use simple language that persuades us to think that you know what you are talking about, and not just trying to slip past us simple folk. I know that it can be done, I’ve seen it happen.

I know that people will be anxious to rush ahead to their favorite amendments but let’s take them in the order that they are presented. If the cat has a litter of kittens and you are anxious to tell us, please interrupt. We always like fresh news. Otherwise try to stick to the amendments as we come to them.

I should do this backwards, because all of the really good ones came first, but I wont, and we start the first course with dessert.

Amendment 1, passed in 1791:
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.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;”
I guess that means if you want to start your own church, and you think that Elvis is God, the government can’t stop you. Many of phony religions have hidden behind this clause, but what the heck, if you want to go to the trouble to start a religion, go ahead, it’s not against the law.

“or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press;”
Ah, This is the one that most people have heard blathered on about endlessly. This is the one that the professional wordsmiths point to as the most important of all of the amendments. I’ve heard reporters, and news people carry on for absolutely hours about “their rights” to say anything that they want, protect all their sources, reveal plots, and keep all of their information to themselves as to who the guilty parties might be, because they might need them for another juicy story.
Correct me if I am wrong, but I always heard that “with great privilege, comes great responsibility”. You never hear the reporters quoting that.
“or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
To me, this is the most annoying part of the first amendment, I don’t think that we are allowed much of a chance to peaceably assemble, and strangely, it is always far away from anyone we might want to talk to. Our government is out of touch in more ways than one.

What would you change about the first amendment? Do you think that it is clear enough? Is it time to start over? Remember, this thing is written on onion skin. maybe it IS time to start over.
Okay, I’ll start. Under the first amendment. Did you know that is okay to burn the American Flag in a public protest? It is considered to be a form of speech.
Did you know that pornography is not very limited under the first amendment, but obscenity is?
The definition of obscenity is:
“the Roth test for obscenity was “whether to the average person, applying contemporary community standards, the dominant theme of the material, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest.”

In other words if you are interested in it, it is obscene. Or as Justice Potter Stewart put it: "I know it when I see it."
But mostly, the first amendment is your right to say what you want.


Ernie Branscomb said...

"Maybe there should be an asterisk in the First Amendment's protection of the freedom of the press making the point that most of us who are parents of teenagers do on a regular basis: that freedom is not simply a privilege but also a responsibility, that just because you have it doesn't mean you need to push its limits, much less abuse it." Susan Estrich

Anonymous said...

Title of this post should be goose quills and hemp fibers.

The Constitution was written on paper made from the fibers of the hemp plant. So was the Declaration of Independence.

Gives new meaning to the Boston "Tea" Party ...

Ernie Branscomb said...

See, we learned somthing already. Is that in print somewhere? I'm not questioning it but, I'd always heard it was onionskin. And I've tried Goggling it but have stuck out.

Kym said...

Well, according to everything I can find it (the Constitution on display in the Rotunda) was written on parchment.
See heree

Ernie Branscomb said...

Thanks Kym, The Marijauna culture likes the idea that all good things come from "Hemp" wink wink..

Drafted on Hemp said...

Everyone is right... drafted on hemp and copied to parchment :
"The first draft of the Declaration of Independence (June 28, 1776) was written on Dutch (hemp) paper, as was the second draft completed on July 2, 1776. This was the document actually agreed to on that day and announced and released on July 4, 1776. On July 19, 1776, Congress ordered the Declaration be copied and engrossed on parchment (a prepared animal skin) and this was the document actually signed by the delegates on August 2, 1776."

Ernie Branscomb said...


Thanks for the correction and the Link