The 1st Amendment guarantees us the right to free speech unrestricted by the government. Or so we thought. Freedom of speech is something we as Americans have had since the Bill of Rights was created. But is it really guaranteed to us all?
The Amendment states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech…,” But then we see instances where that contradicts. This is due to people not wanting to hear the truth or abusing the 1st amendment to make a point.
There are many moments in our lives where we’re censored, but it then makes us question how much free speech really costs. An example of this would be the situation of comedians. During shows, some comedians have to walk on eggshells because of the ultimate issues with censorship. Many comedians don’t care whether what they’re saying is offensive or not, but that might lead audience members to bring up infractions to local officials. There have been many cases of censorship involving comedians, such as Josh Denny. Josh Denny had four of his shows canceled due to “cancel culture” and the violation of free speech when speaking up about politics. This just goes to show that many are censored and brought to unnecessary consequences.
The real question is, is the freedom of speech something we Americans truly do have, or is it all an illusion? From my own personal experiences, I’ve learned that it feels like in certain situations, such as a school environment, I have no say in the happenings around me. Maybe that’s because I’m a teenager, and adults have this idea in their heads that because we’re younger, we understand less about the world than them. And that may be true for some, but it’s not entirely universal.
We [teenagers] have this idea that we have the freedom to say what we want, but does that come later, as we turn 18? Or have we always had it, but adults silence us because they think we shouldn’t? The ones being silenced are the ones trying to navigate their way through the world and solve the problems the ones silencing us caused. It’s hypocrisy.
Not only have we witnessed the damage free speech does to our society, but we also see how it affects our everyday lives. When in school, are we allowed to use profanity without getting yelled at by our faculty? From what I’ve learned, no. The use of profanity, such as the F-word, has been positioned in our world as something you shouldn’t say or even know about/be able to say until later in your life. But as we’re growing up in these environments that open us up to the negative parts of the world and the things we’re being hidden from at a young age, we see the reality that censorship has been playing a part in our lives.
Living in 2023, we see now that our parents/guardians and people we look up to try to cover up the negative parts of our world. And that comes with maturity. But to cover it up when we already know about it is worse than not knowing at all. Because it’s worse to be silenced than to speak the truth.
So my final words to the freedom of speech: Did you take my voice? Or did you never give me one at all?
Sarah Begun is a BBG living in Cherry Hill, New Jersey who plays bass guitar, and lacrosse.
All views expressed on content written for The Shofar represent the opinions and thoughts of the individual authors. The author biography represents the author at the time in which they were in BBYO.
The International Life of Jessica Ilin, the 77th International Mazkirah
Tzav, this week’s parsha, documents the commandments of the High Priests, the kohanim, and provides insight into leading a virtuous life beyond the walls of the sanctuary.
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