Individual interpretation of First Amendment brings problems

Monday, December 8, 2008 | 10:00 a.m. CST

The First Amendment of the United States Constitution reads as follows: "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 redress of grievances."

And on the basis of this, one adult woman felt free to go on the Internet and harass and intimidate a 13-year-old girl until the girl committed suicide.

People searching for bargains use their freedom by breaking down the doors of retail stores, pushing and shoving their way inside and trampling an employee to death.

A man used his freedom to purchase a gun, teach his 8-year-old-son how to shoot it and became a murder victim when his son decided to kill him and another man.

One thing the founders didn't count on, I guess, was that the citizens of these United States would become so obsessed with their freedoms that they would lose their common sense. Individual interpretations of the First Amendment continue to prevail.

These methods by which Americans exercise their freedoms reflect the manner in which illiteracy becomes a threat to democracy. This republic left in the hands of stupid people will not last long. The herd mentality alone will lead to its destruction. And as the literacy rate continues to fall and gun sales continue to escalate, within the next couple of generations, if the trend remains steady, civilization will be no more than a lost promise.

Perhaps, the current financial difficulty will cause us all to stop and think about the ways in which this country is getting out of control. Money is getting more difficult to earn and save every day. Families are going to have to sit down and strategize if they are to survive. A lack of education is a handicap when times are good. In times of turmoil and financial problems people need to be able to think creatively in order to deal with their situation. For example, how much sense can be made out of the fact that as more and more people lose their jobs, their homes, cities and states run out of operating capital, and businesses go down the drain, instead of many families searching for ways to maintain their  emotional health, they are buying up violent video games for their children. This is not a good thing.

Frankly, I think that if there was ever an occasion for people to start thinking smart, this is it. A lot of people got into that habit as a result of the oil prices. I know several businesses that converted to the four-day week to conserve the use of energy in their buildings and to assist their employees by causing them to use less gas. Many drivers began to use public transportation instead of their cars. While most of us have no control over the economy, our personal situation is within our control, and we can begin to think of ways to cut down on expenses as well as improve the quality of our lives.

Most of us, when we look around our homes, can admit that we already have more goods than we need. Probably, if we never buy another electronic device, we would have enough. How many televisions does a person need? How many computers? How many telephones? But it's just not changes in financial matters that we should be aware of; we need to look at our cultural values. A few decades ago, many people felt that television posed a serious threat to out cultural values. Sex and violence were popular themes being paraded before the eyes of children. Parents fought to establish a rating system for programs aimed at family viewing. They succeeded to a certain extent. Still, many television programs served up during prime time are questionable.

The Internet is a much more dangerous form of entertainment. There are chat rooms and Web pages that prey on the innocence of young people and quite often entice them into situations they are unequipped to handle. Parents who are unable to monitor their children's viewing habits at all times should ask themselves if they can afford to take chances with allowing their children open access to Internet viewing.

We have to begin to seriously understand that children are the adults of the future, and they have to be prepared to be the future leaders of the country.

Parents need to ask themselves if violent video games and visiting dangerous chat rooms will lead their kids in the direction they should be going.

When it's all said and done, there's a lot of retooling and reshaping that needs to be done in our society. We need a lot more than financial bailouts to right this country; we need ethical returning.

At the moment, the most we can do is hope for the best.

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at

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