Freedom of Speech and Press

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In framing our nation’s Constitution, it is apparent where our founders believed the core of our rights as citizens to express ourselves should stand.  The first amendment in the Bill of Rights provides for freedom of speech and freedom of the press.  Congress is prohibited for making any law abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, meaning we are free to say or write whatever we please; false, factual, real, or imagined, and suffer no legal redress for doing so.

This is a marvelous liberty until someone yells “Fire!” in a crowded theater, or incites people to riot and destroy the property or lives of others.  In other words, it is wise to remember that actions always have consequences and sometimes the consequences are less than ideal or of a nature never intended.

In today’s world, we no longer have the freedom to act or speak in confidence of privacy.  Cell phones capture actions and words of moments we would prefer remain anonymous and instantly broadcast them for the world to view on U-tube, Facebook, Twitter, and a vast array of other social media.  Misspeak, misbehave, stumble, trip, fall, have a momentary lapse of judgement, cough, sneeze, split your pants, embarrass yourself in some manner and prepare to have your faux pas published for the world to share.

Yes, our Constitution gives us the right to abuse our fellow man in this manner, much like the paparazzi in pursuit of celebrities, but there remains a question of common courtesy.  A matter of respect for those who share our society.  We all do things that are humorous or embarrassing from time to time, suffering the snickers and laughter of friends or acquaintances at the time.  Having such incidents broadcast to the world has proven to have some serious results.  Young people have committed suicide as a result of this sort of cyber bullying, people have lost their jobs, businesses have lost patronage.  Meanwhile, the anonymous author of the damaging broadcast scampers away free of responsibility for the consequences of their actions.

Regardless the Constitutional right to speak or print whatever we choose, it is important to recognize the human right to be treated with civility and courtesy.  A simply measurement of proper behavior is found in every major religion.  Simply treat others as you wish to be treated.

 

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Religious Freedom

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The Constitution of the United States was written to establish and protect personal freedoms the founders believed to be fundamental, freedoms denied in many ways by the colonial rule of the King of England. Many colonists had fled England in order to be free of the rules of the official church of the monarchy, seeking to worship as they chose. The importance of this liberty is expressed in Article I of the Bill of Rights:

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.

During my life I have witnessed a barrage of challenges to this freedom, often misquoted as guaranteeing “Separation of Church and State” as a vehicle to remove any reference to God on our money, in our Pledge of Allegiance, the oath to tell the truth in a court of law, and any official documents. Our nation has many flaws, but recognition of a Supreme Being isn’t one of them. Interestingly enough, freedom of speech, press, assembly, and to petition the government allows the abuse of religious freedom Article I protects.

This abuse has taken many forms, but most recently, the demand for Sharia Law to be observed by our courts. In a nation where the rules of the Christian, Hebrew, Buddhist, Hindu, and all other religious orders are subservient to our statutes, Sharia seeks to be placed above, and recently, under pressure from the White House, has been held to be so. Two individuals sought and acquired work as delivery drivers for a distributor of alcoholic beverages. Subsequently, these drivers refused to deliver the products they were hired to deliver, claiming it violates their Islamic faith. The employer terminated them for refusing to do their jobs. Seems rather straightforward, but enter the twisted view of religious freedom and the two men sue the employer for wrongful termination. The obvious decision here would be that the employer hired them to do a job, they accepted the job, refused to do the job, and therefor were released. Not for their religion, but failure to perform the tasks assigned. Sadly, justice did not prevail. The White House advised the judge appointed by the President that the plaintiffs would prevail. The result is a decision demanding the employer pay a fee of $240,000.00 to the men for firing them.

Keep in mind, the Koran does not prohibit sale or distribution or delivery of alcoholic beverages, only the consumption of them. As a confidence game, this decision sets a terrible precedent for our judicial system. In a system based on preceding decisions, it opens the flood gates to a swarm of claims of religious repression. A decision demanded by the office of a man who took an oath to protect and defend The Constitution, a document he is supposedly an expert regarding.
Islam has been at war with all other religions for more than two thousand years. Unless we defend our Constitution, this nation, under God, will perish from the earth.

Architecture of a Novel

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Telling a story is like designing and building a house. The house has different rooms, different finished surfaces, rooms and spaces with different purposes, all organized into a working whole. The idea of the design usually begins with where it will be built so that it can take advantage of light, view, the lay of the land. So it is with my novel, formed around a location I knew as a young man.

Places sometimes become indelibly imprinted on our mind, remembered for any number of reasons. No matter where life’s path leads us, memories of those locations remain as sweet reminders of what we once experienced. I chose to leave the north coast and live elsewhere, but I carry deep a love for the region and its unique character.

Choosing Big Lagoon as a location for my story was made many years ago and by having been away for long many years I felt free to take some liberties with my descriptions. Like the architect who moves some earth around to place a foundation or cuts foliage to open up a view, I carved some new features into the landscape to make my tale take the form I had designed. I love the freedom fiction offers in creating settings, events, and people.

Once I had created the landscape to suit my intentions, the enjoyment of creating the characters who would populate the story began. Building the characteristics of a person is where I had the freedom to draw from the habits, speech patterns, behaviors, and appearances of people I know and have known. As a writer, I have the freedom to choose the physical characteristics, make them as perfect or imperfect as I wish, but always working to make them believable, perhaps the greatest challenge. If the person in the story is not someone the reader can relate to, then the reader is less apt to find themselves living the story with the character.

Naming the people is part of building the personality profile for each character. I named the people in the story after men and women I have known, worked with, gone to school with, or were a part of my family. I used my middle name and a neighbor’s name for one character, my grandmother and my aunt’s names for another. Like the geography of the location of the story, I also manipulated and altered the characteristics of the people in the story from the true people on whom they are based.

Like the architect who first studies the land in order to visualize the finished construction of a building, the writer draws inspiration from the location chosen for the story, then visualizes and imagines the events to be played out and the characters who will be the story. The writer, like the architect who manipulates the design to suit the conditions, must always remember to follow where the direction the characters lead. After all their story is the one being told.