Do’h! What are Amendments?

A little something I wrote years ago that sadly, still applies….

Homer. Bart. Marge. Lisa. Maggie.

Many of you already know that this is the infamous five members of Fox’s “The Simpsons,” the cartoon family that has entertained the country for nearly 15 years. Simon. Paula. Randy. Yes…the judges of American Idol. I’m sure most of you also know that Ryan Seacrest is the host of the show as well. Yet the polling of 1,000 Americans last month discovered that more Americans know about these and other pop culture tidbits than their own freedoms and rights granted to them by the Constitution.

For those who don’t disagree with the poll, do yourself a favor and write down the five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment. Good luck. Most of the focus group discovered that it wasn’t as easy at they suspected, as only one in four of those surveyed could name more than one of the freedoms, but more than half could name at least two members of the Simpson cartoon family.

A fifth of those polled could name all of the Simpsons; a mere one person was able to name the five freedoms. The study was conducted by the new McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum in January.

“Part of the survey really shows there are misconceptions, and part of our mission is to clear up those misconceptions,” Joe Madeira, director of exhibitions at the museum told the Associated Press. His exhibit, opening in April, will teach visitors about the First Amendment. “It means we have our job cut out for us.” Freedom Of Speech. But what does this study really mean? Is it something to be laughed at in amusement? Or is something that should concern Americans?

It may have something to do with the fact that Americans take their freedom for granted and that they do not realize the opportunities that these amendments grant them. But there are more freedoms that the First Amendment gives Americans. The Right To Be Oblivious. The Right To Not Care About Anything That Happens Outside Of Their Social Lives. The Right To Let Others Make Decisions For Them. The Right To Not Vote. Or maybe it’s just because of the icon status that Americans grant to celebrities- and just how high the pedestals are that they place them on. Angelina. Brad. Nick. Jessica. For some Americans, what goes on in the lives of the celebrities is more important than their own. They are viewed upon as gods and goddesses.
Freedom Of Religion.
But is it the media and society that made Americans that way, or has the laziness of Americans made media and society dumb down their coverage to an uinattentive public? Why is it that celebrity breakups, instead of world issues, dominate the headlines of news broadcasts? Whose fault is it: the sender of the message or the receiver? In an essay by reporter Mark Lloyd in “The Future Of Media: Resistance and Reform in the 21st Century”, he stated that the major television networks are timid in their choice of news topics for fear of losing sponsors and advertising dollars. He stated that gutsy reporters such as Edward R. Murrow (whom you may recognize from George Clooney’s Good Night, and Good Luck) did not shy away from broadcasting reports on men such as Sen. Joseph McCarthy, but lost his network advertising dollars. Instead, he claimed, the networks would prefer to broadcast more mindless television for the comatose viewers.
Lloyd stated in his essay, “The Beverly Hillbillies program is much more comfortable environment for the car, soap and pharmaceutical companies…” Maybe the less a viewer has to think about, the more at ease that viewer is in understanding the advertiser’s messages.
Freedom Of The Press.
There is no solution to the problem in sight. Americans will still rather read a magazine about their favorite rock star than material that will educate or enhance them. Programming will always be created for the sole right of generating viewers not because it enhances the public’s minds, but because it will enhance the networks’ wallets. Some Americans just don’t, and will never, realize just how good they have it and that this is the greatest country in the world because other Americans understood the freedoms of the First Amendment and took full advantage of them. So realize that there was more to this poll than just informing us that the Simpsons are a popular show and that Simon Cowell keeps getting an extended 15-minutes of fame. It is really a study of American society, and how it is easier to ignore the important and concern oneself with just the trivial. You can gather together and discuss these topics in an open forum. Fortunately for you, that’s one of your freedoms.
Freedom To Assembly.
And just how detached from reality (maybe because of too much “reality TV”) are some people who took this poll? About 20 percent of them thought the right to own a pet was a protected amendment, and nearly 40 percent thought the right against self-incrimination was protected by the First Amendment. “I plead the Fifth”. Some people that say it sadly cannot make the correlation that it is a reference to our Fifth Amendment rights. Maybe I’m over-reacting. Maybe that is not what these survey results prove. Maybe you completely disagree and feel that one topic has nothing to do with the other. Maybe you disagree so much that you feel compelled to write a letter to state your dissatisfaction with this theory and address it to this newspaper or a member of our government. And just maybe, you have realized that you have that right to do so because of the First Amendment.
Freedom to Petition for Redress of Grievances.

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