Hey, you guys, this is Mary Kate and Between the Bytes back with your weekly post! Clearly, as a blogger and journalist, I believe writing to voice opinions and affect change is virtually always good. And, as most people know, voicing your opinions is protected by the First Amendment. Some things most people might not know about are all the specifics behind the First Amendment and its creation. The First Amendment, though sometimes a touchy subject, is a very necessary one as well.
“Crash Course” is a YouTube channel that gives a refresher course to viewers in subjects like astronomy, literature, and government and politics. It’s great if, like me, you zoned out for some of the important stuff during those classes in high school. The government and politics section of the channel recently did a few videos discussing the civil rights and liberties of citizens in the United States. Given current events, including protests around the world due to some recent presidential actions, I thought these questions were timely: why are we allowed to protest, and are the protests actually doing anything?
The short version is this: we are allowed to protest the government because the government said we could. A long, long, time ago in a galaxy far, far, away, the framers of the constitution wanted to be sure to avoid the oppressive style of government they came from in England. So, they made it a point to give the citizens of the United States a way to tell the government their opinions: free speech. Of course, the right to free speech only gets more complicated from there. “Crash Course: Government and Politics #25” discusses the First Amendment and the differences between civil liberties and civil rights, as well as how states’ rights play into the tangled web of the right to free speech. Spoiler alert: the case Gitlow vs. New York comes up. Whether it is the case of Chaplinksy vs. New Hampshire or the sit in with Jack Weinberg of the 1960s in Berkeley the right to protest and free speech is always an important one.
Though the First Amendment and court cases might be intimidating and full of legalese, the right to free speech and, expanding on that category, the right to protest are important parts of American culture. Which brings me to my second question: are all these protests actually doing anything? The definitive answer is yes. Any time citizens are working together to keep the government accountable and take action to make the government aware of something they dislike is a successful protest in my book. Don’t take my word for it, though! Check out “Crash Course” on YouTube or through the PBS Digital Studios homepage at pbs.org/show/crash-course-government-and-politics/ and tell us what you think in the comments!
Mary Kate Mansfield is a senior at the University of Central Arkansas working toward a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Journalism and will graduate in December of 2017. She is also the editor of the UCA yearbook “The Scroll” and an intern for AETN’s Marketing and Outreach department.