Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Apathetic About Freedom

Dale, over at Volohk Conspiracy, points to a survey that shows that Americans don’t know much about the Constitution, or more specifically the First Amendment.

Americans apparently know more about "The Simpsons" than they do about the First Amendment.

Only one in four Americans can name more than one of the five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment (freedom of speech, religion, press, assembly and petition for redress of grievances.) But more than half can name at least two members of the cartoon family, according to a survey.

The study by the new McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum found that 22 percent of Americans could name all five Simpson family members, compared with just one in 1,000 people who could name all five First Amendment freedoms.

American’s don’t know much about the Constitution because it doesn’t mean much in their day to day lives. Sure, they know that they have rights and that those rights are protected by the Constitution, but Americans take those rights for granted. They take them from granted because government really doesn’t bother us all that much.

Using myself as the anecdotal average citizen I deal with the federal government when they take money out of my paycheck every month and on April 15th. Beyond that I am insulated from the mountains of regulation by businesses and local governments that internalize the headaches.

From Sarbanes-Oxley to No Child Left Behind to the Highway Spending Bill I don’t see the practical implications of those legislative actions in my everyday life. My school administrators and teachers probably complain about NCLB, business that I deal with everyday do nothing buy moan about SOX and my Congresswomen will brag come election time about the pork she delivered – but, unless I am paying attention, it is a bit difficult to connect the dots back to Congress.

No one tells me what I can and cannot say, no one tells me who I can spend my time with, no one tells me what god to worship. For these reasons and more people simply don’t care much about the details of the Constitution. I would be worried if Americans knew them inside and out because that would mean that government was constantly trying to impinge on those rights.

As long as Congress leaves the First Amendment alone and as long as the Supreme Court is only dealing with cases at the margins of free speech and religion the public at large will continue to take our freedoms for granted – which is precisely the way that I would like to keep it.

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