The First Amendment, Amended

Howard Chandler Christy
Howard Chandler Christy

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

But look, we didn’t expect newspapers and smoke signals and handwritten letters to evolve the way they did. So we figured we should do a little more to make clear what this amendment does and does not cover.

Just for the sake of clarity, if one says something stupid, and someone else tells the original party to knock it off, that’s not censorship. We’re talking right now about the ability to criticize the government without fear of legal reprisal. Or to practice the religion of one’s choice without the risk of persecution. It is not censorship for another citizen to recommend you stop using racial slurs on your blog, or to leave fewer YouTube comments telling people to “go get raped.” In fact, maybe we don’t need to allow comments on the news. When Paul Revere ran through the streets yelling, “The British are coming!” he didn’t wait around to see how many people “liked” his proclamation. And though we are in the interest of propounding democracy, none of us see a special utility in encouraging discourse like “WTF by land, WTF by sea.” Certainly, these are not the freedoms that we, the founding fathers, are specifically endorsing here. Legally, you have every right to be awful, but maybe don’t? We’re trying to run a world superpower here, not a nation full of morning radio DJs, another group of people whose popularity we did not foresee.

And to return momentarily to the topic of religion:

While no law shall prohibit the free and unfettered practice thereof, maybe don’t go around shoving your religion up everyone’s butt all the time. Look, we’re all about religion over here, except Ben Franklin who just kind of lets his freak flag fly. We’re in favor of leaving room for all religions, even the ones that seem totally goofy and were founded by science fiction writers. But maybe let’s cool it with arguing that certain legislation should or should not pass because of something written in the Bible. We went through all this trouble writing a Bill of Rights so that you didn’t have to comb through the weird talking snakes and incest in the Old Testament to figure out which laws are useful and which ones are a little outdated. Also, atheists, you guys can cool it too.

There will be periods of time when certain art forms seem like a threat to the public well-being. We can assure that for the most part, people are overreacting. Jazz is not the devil’s music. Neither is rock and roll. Also, hip-hop. None of these genres will destroy the gentle fabric of our nation. They are just things that Black people invented. A Black man invented the potato chip. You wouldn’t call those “the Devil’s chips.” Just relax, old white people. You’ll be fine. And trust us, we understand the irony of this statement in the context of history. We didn’t get everything right the first time. That’s why we invented amendments.

Whilst you are at it, go nuts requesting redresses of grievances from the government. Assemble freely in town squares. Any group may participate in this brand of patriotism. Democrats, Republicans, Radicals, Huddled Masses, Juggalos. But while we’re assembling and grievanceing, let’s relax with the Nazi imagery.

You’re free to use whatever words you want, of course, but words have specific meanings to most people. You’d likely have a hard time finding Jews and Gypsies who agree that US presidents are worse than Hitler, partly because of how many of them that the actual Nazis murdered. So let’s take a step back and use the words we mean. “Person I disagree with?” Sure! “War criminal?” I’m listening. “Nazi?” No. That’s a different thing. We didn’t refer to our British monarchs as “Sea Monsters,” because that’s a different thing we fear and hate.

Finally, although we can’t make them illegal, please consider never using the following expressions:

It is what it is, tapping that ass, my Crocs, selfie, brunch (as a verb), single and ready to mingle, cray cray, vajayjay, broseph, LOL and BRB (when spoken aloud), profesh, deets, sick-nasty, crushin’ it, wazzzuppppp, baby bump, sabermetrics, DTF, and GTL.

Well, that’s about all the space we have on this wrinkly piece of paper. If there were more room, we’d make some changes to the second amendment, too, but we think it should be fine. None of us can see how anyone could possibly misconstrue those words. TC Mark


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