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First Amendment

November 14, 2011

As I was riding the bus yesterday morning, I started flipping through an article on how we need to “take back the media” to support a more robust “communicative democracy”. The details aren’t important, other than to say that the author used very pointed language and a very unapologetic critique of the current corporate media structure to support his claims.

In true American fashion, I prudishly pursed my lips and found myself thinking: “Well, that’s all well and good, but aren’t we getting just a little too ornery here?” I’d even say I nearly heard the words “dirty socialist” running through my subconscious. (And for the record, I in no way believe that socialists are dirty.)

And then I checked myself. And I realized: if I had been reading this article in German, in a German publication, I wouldn’t have resisted at all. In fact, I likely would have been nodding along in agreement, sharing it with a few friends, and discussing it over tea.

So what’s the difference?

It honestly feels like George Orwell’s ghost rose up from the grave to come slap me in the face. This is one of the first times where I’ve felt the sheer normalizing force of “socially acceptable language” actively steering and censoring my thoughts. But the scariest feeling: it’s probably not the first it’s happened.

Yes, America, we have reached the point where saying things courageously and unequivocally–if these things fall outside the increasingly narrow realm of “expected discourse”–will get you censored, dismissed, and ignored. And not just in the abstract macro sense, but in the very real micro sense of me, sitting on a bus, warily pursing my lips and steadying myself against the rocking boat.

And so I question: Where is the First Amendment these days? And how do I fight for it, if the struggle is within?

Some Thanksgiving food for thought.

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