The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

First Amendment alive and well in D.C.

We arrived in Washington D.C. on a perfect October day to begin Hilltop on the Hill. After catching the Metro to our hotel, we dumped our bags and we were ready to explore the city. I walked the few blocks from our hotel to the White House with other girls, and after taking cliché pictures in front of the White House we continued our exploration of the nation’s capital. Walking down Pennsylvania Avenue, we could hear a loud speaker in the distance and followed the voice until we came across a rally. The woman speaking was protesting the layoffs occurring in the district. Though such rallies and protests aren’t encountered in the typical American city, its presence here felt normal.

I have always associated Washington D.C. with events like this rally. Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech from the steps of Lincoln Memorial, the women’s suffrage movement, the Vietnam protests, and more recently the Darfur Rally and the Equal Civil Rights march only a week ago are common reminders of this city’s purpose. This city is where the protections of the first amendment are tested. The freedom of speech, the freedom of the press, the freedom of the people to peaceably assemble and petition the government for a redress of grievances are all protections of the first amendment.

I saw all of these rights put into effect on my trip — thus demonstrating that while the nation’s capital is a city of government and politics, it is also a city of and for the people. As a place that exemplifies the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, D.C. is the platform for our democracy, one that is not possible without protections provided by the first amendment.

The rally on Thursday was a classic example of freedom of speech. A disgruntled woman saw an opportunity to voice her displeasure with the school district and felt safe enough to protest. Around 100 others supported her in the square adjacent to the famed Willard Hotel. While some supporters chanted along, others passed around flyers that carried the message in print. The rally could not have happened if such speech, press and assembly were not protected.

The march for equal civil rights by the LGBT community on Oct. 11 is another prime example of American citizens utilizing their freedoms. This march exemplified the freedom to peaceably assemble and petition the government for a redress of grievances, whereas the school district rally was more heavily reliant on a protection of speech. The movement to achieve equal rights for homosexuals has been a topic of debate for years and thus speech has already been fostered. That day, however, thousands of people joined together to support their beliefs. By marching from 14th and H all the way to the steps of the Capitol, they stated their grievances to Congress. This was not possible without the first amend-ment.

While the march displayed many citizens’ opinion, I found that it was a poster that took the most advantage of the protections of the first amendment. It was on an inconsequential street corner in Downtown D.C. and was a picture of Obama, with the words “I’VE CHANGED” at the bottom. The distinguishing feature of it was that in it Obama sported the notorious Adolf Hitler moustache. It was utterly shocking that such a blunt and loaded political message was displayed so nonchalantly.

Though people walked past this message, it stopped me in my tracks in horror. For despite my dislike of the president’s policies, this enthymematic argument disturbed me to the core. This poster assumed the viewer first recognized the moustache as Hitler’s and also understood his policies and dictatorship during the 1930s to the mid 1940s, including the control of all media and the genocide of the Jewish people and “enemies” of the Third Reich. This poster suggested that President Obama has changed into a political player to the likes of Adolf Hitler, an appalling allegation. However terrible and crude it may be, the poster can be displayed due to the first amendment and its protection of speech, press, and peaceful assembly. This amendment has shaped our culture, our government, and our people, but also our capital. It is a place where words and ideas evoke action. D.C. is one big manifestation of communication of all forms.

Claire Sanderson is a junior CCPA and Political Science double major. She can be reached for comment at [email protected].

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