The value of opposing voices
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.
DFirst Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
The First Amendment belongs to the citizens of the United States. Under its second clause, “…or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press” newspapers and other media fulfill their mission in a free society.
Many Americans, including members of the press, believe this portion of the First Amendment to be the exclusive stronghold of newspapers or other news organizations. This is an erroneous assumption about the ownership and privileges of the Constitution and its Amendments: they were written for the people, they belong to the people, and they are interpreted and applied by the people for the good of the democracy.
Sure, it’s a messy process. Americans are proud when we see how functional our democracy has become in the past 226 years, and yet it has been a bloody road and ours is still vastly imperfect. That is because democracy is a journey, not a destination.
Competing ideologies and philosophies D and in recent years, theologies D give rise to political maneuvering to severely limit or even silence those who hold different opinions about our rights as individuals. In emerging democracies, bloodshed and corruption occurs as fledgling governments struggle to gain a foothold under the new system of governance, with some retreating from its troublesome path.
The fundamental goodness of the free press clause and its natural ‘mate,’ the free speech clause, is that it liberates a variety of opposing ‘voices’ to express their viewpoints and seek their application on the larger society. A basic tenet of democracy is the battling of ideas in an arena of civil discourse, seeking not only to see one’s own beliefs and practices put into play, but an improved, collective ‘ideal’ which considers and perhaps applies the best practices of many. This is where democracy goes terribly right.
The Truckee area faces many challenges which will become increasingly sensitive in the coming years. Land use, affordable housing, environment, development, school district improvements, special district reviews, spiraling costs of California governance, the reach of local government, immigration and changing community demographics all will become lightning rods for conflict over how this community should direct its resources. To wit: Town of Truckee plans an update of its general plan this summer which will consider most of the topics listed above. And, land development issues continue to abound, as Truckee faces build-out and increasingly sensitive environmental considerations as natural habitats are considered for human living space. Dramatically affecting the diversity of the community is the impact of housing values as they are felt among lower-wage families, and how this is reflected in school district planning and the over all ‘fabric’ of the community.
In this wonderfully western, all-American town, it will be important that a multitude of opposing voices are encouraged to speak out and be heard my a multitude of ears. We encourage all citizens to get to know their First Amendment rights in regard to free speech and a free press, and to work heartily within its powerful provision, locally
For more information on the First Amendment, visit http://www.freedomforum.org