This afternoon while you are at Starbucks consuming your second cup of $4 coffee, I will be sitting in the far corner of the classroom listening to students in the First Amendment Rights class present their final projects. These projects are worth 45 percent of their grade.
They are charged with one thing — implementing their knowledge about their First Amendment Rights.
As you might imagine, I consider it an honor to teach First Amendment Rights. Who better to understand the value of such rights than a member of a Gold Star Family, heh?
I learn something new every time I teach the class. This term we’ve had a student from Vietnam taking the class, so it’s been insightful to hear Q’s perspective on rights. The other day, for example, Q said that when he first came to this country he was afraid to speak, to say what he thought about most anything.
Q isn’t afraid anymore.
In this country, he’s come to realize that he has the freedom of thought and of speech.
Of course the other thing is that when you give people that kind of freedom, there are plenty of knuckleheads out there who will abuse the heck out of it. We’ve studied those people, too, the mean-spirited who use their First Amendment rights to batter the hell out of others.Don’t you sort of wish the framers of the First Amendment had put in a knucklehead exception clause in the document?
It’s upsetting to watch people burn the flag that covers the coffins of American soldiers. It’s also downright infuriating to see how easy it is for hate groups to recruit our young and disenfranchised.
The First Amendment is something we continue to wrangle with as a people dedicated to freedom.
So it is in that spirit that it seems absolutely the right thing for Afghan students to take to the streets in a march against the slaughter of their own by an American serviceman this past week.
It’s heartbreaking for all involved: the families who lost loved ones, and the soldier, who was forced back on the battlefield even after a traumatic brain injury, and the family who will spend a lifetime grieving his actions.
This soldier’s efforts to fight for the freedoms of the Afghans results in their protesting his murderous actions.
Freedom isn’t just something we fight for, it’s a matter we wrangle with, continually.