The other day, I was rummaging through my collection of pins and buttons to select a few favs for St. Patrick's Day.
"Where's my 'Irish ... Almost' button, honey?" I asked my wife, not really expecting a response. I reached for my rarely-opened valet and searched it, too. Nope, no button in there. But I did discover a long forgotten treasure. My graduation ring from Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan.
It no longer fits over the knuckle on my right index finger so I slipped the green and silver momento on my pinky and wore it loosely for the day. The first thing I noticed was the tiny gold emblem across the stone. It's a quill representing journalism, my major. Classes, professors, projects, textbooks and internships rushed through my mind. Just by looking at that little quill. It signified the power of the pen and all the responsibilities that come with it.
Journalists are the protectors of a free state, indeed the profession is known as the fourth estate, enshrined by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, immediately following religion, and speech and one semicolon before "the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the Government for redress of grievances."
Freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly and petition.
In the late 18th century, this was a very liberal concept but now has become integral to our democratic republic. Unless of course we allow it to wither.
You see, the First Amendment is about thought, expression and change. It is insufficient to think great thoughts without action. No matter what a free press uncovers and scorches with the disinfecting brightness of truthful sunlight, if we stay on the couch or post selfies until the cows come home, we will continue to step in the manure of lies, oppression and squandered lives.
Freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly and petition. They run together for a reason. Morality demands we speak up and write and gather to build consensus and demand change, peacefully.
Thankfully, America's youth have figured out what happens when citizens cry and complain but fail or refuse to act in the face of undeniable, objective dysfunction. So, this week, high school and middle school kids across the U.S. had their 17 minutes of fame while walking out of classes in a unified civil disobedience to protest legislative inaction on gun violence. And some in Parkland, Florida realized that 17 minutes wasn't enough to protest the insane butchering of 17 schoolmates with a weapon of war. So they ran off campus and extended their efforts to two hours.
Civil disobedience is what it took for women to win the vote, for African-Americans to win desegregation and equality, and what it will take again for we citizens to win the attention of our duly elected representatives.
Remember, one of the key reasons the colonists fought the American Revolution was "taxation without representation." We're paying lots and lots of taxes today, but our representatives aren't listening. Does it really matter if we elect them when they refuse to hear unless someone greases their palms?
Well, next Sunday is Palm Sunday and Saturday is the March for Our Lives. This global event will involve at least 819 locations to demonstrate our grievances and demand new policies in gun safety and effective action to reduce gun violence. You can find your nearest gathering at www.MarchForOurLives.com. It's time to turn the presses of protest until the lubricant oozes and flows through the halls of Congress and loosens the wheels of justice to respond to the cries for change.
Sadly, I'll be at my dear brother-in-law's funeral next Saturday, so I have to postpone participating in this campaign to petition our Government to redress. But make no mistake, one worldwide event will not begin to solve this issue, anyway. Flip through the history book on your shelf or Google "civil rights movement" and see how hard people fought to prevent change, forcing fellow citizens to use a different toilet, sit at a separate lunch counter, ride the back of the bus and never learn in the same school.
A slogan popularized by the National Rifle Association (NRA) is "from my cold, dead hands." You can imagine how long it will take to change minds as long as bribes are considered campaign contributions and the U.S. Supreme Court rules that free flowing political money is equivalent to free speech.
See you at the next protest. And the one after that. If we decide not to join in, we might as well not read, watch or listen to the news.
Freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly and petition. They're joined at the hip. It's time to march, press for truth, and fight for what's right. People are dying.