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The Right For The Extreme This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.


   The basis of Americanfreedom has always been the First Amendment, which states "Congress shallmake no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the freeexercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or theright of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for aredress of grievances." This right guarantees that Americans can expresstheir thoughts on any subject. Although this creates more freedom in a democracy,it also creates controversy when citizens express contentious opinions. Recently,many Americans have been ridiculed for exercising their right to freedom ofspeech by expressing their thoughts on the war against Iraq. I think athletes andcelebrities, or any prominent figure, deserve criticism for exploiting theirfreedom of speech on the subject of Iraq.

Toni Smith, a ManhattanvilleCollege basketball player, sparked controversy across the nation when she refusedto face the American flag during the singing of the National Anthem. Throughoutbasketball season, controversy followed Smith as she turned her back on the flagin numerous cities because she believes America should not go to war with Iraq.Smith is exercising her First Amendment rights, but is this the correct way tosend a message? By turning her back on the American flag, which symbolizesAmerican ideals and principles, Smith does not show respect for the country whereshe has lived her entire life. Protesting becomes controversial when one takes anidea to the extreme.

Bretton Barber, a junior at a Michigan high school,shocked school officials by wearing a T-shirt with a picture of President Bushand the caption "International Terrorist."

"I wore theT-shirt to express my anti-war sentiment," said Barber. "In themorning, I got a lot of compliments and no negative feedback. But at lunch, thevice principal told me I had to turn it inside out, or go home. When I asked why,he said I couldn't wear a shirt that promotes terrorism" (New York Times).School officials "feared the shirt might disrupt classes." Barber choseto go home rather than forego his freedom of expression. This behaviordisrespects the leader of the United States and could almost be labeled treason.Barber's action raises the question of whether First Amendment rights should beallowed in all situations.

Celebrities have always influenced society.Their recent actions have raised the question of whether they flaunt theirposition. Musician Sheryl Crow and Canadian basketball player Steve Nash woreshirts with anti-war slogans to high-profile events; other celebrities called fora "virtual war" against war with Iraq by contacting governmentofficials. By utilizing their status, they have influenced society. Though thecelebrities are expressing their thoughts, do they even know what they aretalking about? Or are they simply joining the crowd? First Amendment rights allowfor freedom of expression, but do not give people the right to force their ideason others.

The right of freedom of speech makes a democracy stronger. Whenthis right is exploited, however, it becomes a reason for extreme actions.Americans should not use freedom of expression as an excuse for actions thatcould cause controversy.




This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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robrobrobin11 said...
Jan. 31, 2010 at 5:24 pm
Oh and also, I disagree on one point: in my opinion controversy is necessary to help a nation learn and go; but, I agree that there are cases where freedom of speech is exploited. Nice writing and support for your claims ;-)
 
robrobrobin11 said...
Jan. 31, 2010 at 5:22 pm
"Don't lose respect for the warrior just because you don't support the war"
 
jethomsen13 replied...
Oct. 1, 2010 at 10:21 am
I really disagree with your points in your piece. How did you know when someone does know what they are talking about? Just because they are celebrities doesn't mean that they don't know anything. Sheryl and Steve were just trying to spread a message - don't try to question their thoughts.
 
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