Giving Thanks for the First Amendment
This Thanksgiving, in addition to giving thanks for friends, family, and health, let’s raise a toast to the First Amendment. In the United States, the First Amendment protects five basic freedoms: religion, speech, assembly, press, and freedom to petition the government. While specifically referring to freedoms of speech and press, the First Amendment guards artistic expression against censorship in all art forms- including plays, music, dance, film, literature, poetry, and the visual arts.
Censored version of William Adolphe Bouguereau, The Birth of Venus, (Image courtesy of Flavorwire)
Under this protection, art is able to thrive autonomously and artists have the distinct privilege and choice of producing art that encourages debate, inspires counter speech, and voices the perspectives of all members of society. The First Amendment fosters an environment where artists are free to take on the more complex issues of society and bring light to issues felt by the misrepresented and underserved.
Art is no longer exclusive to the rich or elite. Its reach has expanded from painting, music, poetry, and sculpture to dance, video, photography, and electronic and multimedia genres. Museums and galleries are as accessible as ever, and it is easy to find, purchase, and rent movies and books online. Furthermore, the public can view and discuss news articles through endless news sources and social media platforms.
Greg Miller, American Woman, Acrylic Paint, Collage, Flag on Panel, 72”x 52”
To maintain the ability for artists to take on the more complex issues in society, issues that may be disturbing, divisive, shocking or offensive, it is essential that these rights remain upheld and observed. In today’s political climate, where asking questions labels you as an adversary, and where the free press is verbally and physically under fire, appreciation for freedom of speech and expression becomes paramount.
It is understandably easy to take this considerable protection for granted, but during this holiday of gratitude and reflection, let us take pause and appreciate the First Amendment and all other US laws that protect civil liberties and obstruct censorship. While these protections are essential safeguards to our democracy, it is crucial to remain informed about politics and current events and to support the arts. Whether encouraging local artists or visiting museums, it is always important to see the world through someone else’s eyes- you never know what you may learn or how your own perspectives might expand. Happy Thanksgiving!