Today is Constitution Day, celebrated in honor of the moment 233 years ago when America’s founding fathers signed the U.S. Constitution. It is a day to reflect on our country’s history in our regular lives outside of American Studies — but, most importantly, it is a day to reflect on the rights that the Constitution and Bill of Rights grant us.
Now, I’m sure you’re ready to argue for your favorite amendment right now, because I know everyone has a strong opinion on that. Here on The Stinger, though, the First Amendment takes precedent over them all. It’s one of the first topics you’ll learn about if you ever take a course on journalism; it’s what gives us our right to freedom of speech, religion, petition, assembly, and, of course, the press.
The First Amendment has frequently found itself under attack in not only the field of journalism, but in many other parts of American life. Like the other amendments, there have been countless moments in history where these rights were violated and infringed upon — and, at other times, taken for granted.
This doesn’t only apply to the past, either; modern America has its own tumultuous relationship with the First Amendment. Of 53 U.S. students polled on Instagram, 81 percent believe that the First Amendment has been impeded in some way by the structure of America’s modern society. An increased lack of tolerance toward other viewpoints, crackdowns on anti-government sentiment, and recent outcries over COVID-19 limitations are only a few instances of our right to free speech being impeded that these students said they have witnessed.
Across the country, there are peaceful protests being shut down with violent responses, such as the recent occurrence in Lafayette Square in the nation’s capital. Journalists and members of the press are being injured, arrested, and scorned for covering protests and other controversial occasions, and there are reports coming out regarding harassment against student reporters on college campuses. Two Pennsylvania journalists are currently in the process of being sued for the printing costs to openly publicize Senator Joseph Scarnati’s monetary records.
We, as Americans, must work together to preserve the importance of our First Amendment rights in the face of corruption. Just celebrating Constitution Day shows our appreciation for what these freedoms give us, and according to our poll, 75 percent of 59 U.S. students agree that the First Amendment is still widely valued today. Every day we live with the benefits of the First Amendment and, often, we don’t even realize it. So let’s take today and every day after to show some appreciation for the amendment that allows us to pursue what we want, what we believe, and our own happiness without fear.
Photo courtesy of Canva.