1st Amendment Interviews

November 21, 2009

My interviewees for this 1st Amendment blog assignment were as follows:

1)  Mom’s friend, late 50’s, female.  She agrees with the freedoms in the amendment because it doesn’t place limits, and she agrees with the theory that the government shouldn’t place restraints on people.  She supported all of them, except excessive freedom of press because it could be abused for panic, false reporting, etc.  She did not recognize the amendment but had heard of it, and was familiar with the concepts.

2)  Co-worker, age 25, male.  He agreed with the freedom for people to do what they want.  He was all for people doing what they feel like, as long as it doesn’t harm others.  He thought there should be no limits as long as it doesn’t negatively impact others or their beliefs.  He knew it was a law (of sorts), but didn’t know which one it was.

3)  Co-worker, age 18, female.  She agrees with the amendment, and said it was a good set of morals, that everybody should respect everybody equally as it said.  She thought too much freedom of excercising religion was bad, i.e. crazy people establishing religions that could harm others.  She immediately recognized the amendment.

4)  Friend’s grandmother, 80’s.  She agreed with and supported most of the rights, but thought that it sounded like you can’t stop someone if they have a harmful, cult-like religion.  She did not recognize the amendment, but was familiar with its concepts.

5)  My mom, early 50’s.  She thought we had the rights, but that Congress should re-establish them.  She said there was no such thing as too much freedom, and she immediately recognized the amendment.

6)  Friend of my grandfather, late 70’s, female.  She agreed with all the freedoms, except excessive freedom of press when it did immoral things, like harass people or violate their rights.  She did not recognize the amendment.

I was actually surprised at how no one blindly supported the rights listed in the 1st Amendment.  Everyone I interviewed said they supported the rights, but that if any of them harmed others they shouldn’t be allowed to be excessive.  Press and religion were the two which were most frequently mentioned as being too excessive, which I found interesting because most Americans go around madly trumpeting how great those freedoms are.  I was also surprised at how four out of six people did not recognize the amendment, though they all found it familiar and had heard of the freedoms.

Patterns across age groups were subtle, since everyone had the same basic views, but they existed.  The elderly age group, while supportive, were quick to point out a particular freedom that could be abused to harm others.  The middle age group, on the other hand, thought that not enough freedom could be given to people.  Lastly, my generation was also pretty liberal, but they were more of the mindset of everyone treating each other with equal respect.

Ultimately, after interviewing these six people about their views on the first amendment rights, I learned that most people are optimistic when it comes to freedoms, but are mindful if abuse of the freedoms can harm others.  It is interesting that people think this way, but it can also cause problems concerning the rights contained in the amendment.  When millions of people all interpret the Constitution this way and think there should be certain moral limits, we get into the gray area of what is and isn’t moral, so certain decisions have to be made by courts on how to interpret the rights.  Naturally, not everyone will agree with those decisions.  As another note, since most people were vaguely aware of their 1st Amendment rights but didn’t know they came from the 1st Amendment, I can see how this unawareness could contribute to people’s rights unknowingly being stripped away from them, a little bit at a time.  Also, if people don’t know they have these rights, they may also trade them away for a bit of perceived security, such as with the “War on Terror.”  Or they could give them away anyway.  Shame, that.

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