I’m going to tell you about something that I hold very dear. I’d even go so far as to say it is the foundation beneath everything that I value in my life.
Without this foundation, I would not be able to practice my faith, or express my voice in this forum, or any other, without fear of retribution. Without this foundation, I would not have the freedom to be me.
However, with this foundation, I am able to truly be who I am, worship as I please, speak as a I please, write as I please, gather as I please, even complain as I please.
First world problems
There are a lot of things we take for granted here in the United States; things my 13-year-old describes as “first-world problems.” Especially those of us lucky enough to be a part of the white middle class.
We take our safety for granted. We take the food at the grocery store for granted. We take public education for granted. We take for granted that we can go to church on Sunday mornings, and that the crossing guard will help our kids across the street on the way to school.
A new perspective
As we’ve learned in the past few months, as the coronavirus brought many of us to a new perspective, it is dangerous to take any blessing for granted.
But there is one blessing, above all else, that is so much a part of the fabric of our lives that we don’t even realize it’s there, would never believe it could be taken from us. Of all the privileges afforded us – and there are many – this one is the most forgotten, and also the most crucial to everything we know and love.
Most people’s eye’s glaze over when I mention this one thing.
It is something up there with algebra and crop irrigation on the list of things they think are something for others to consider, that don’t have any real impact on their day-to-day lives (when in reality the functioning of life as they know it is dependent on them).
This foundational thing, this very first thing, is something most of us learned in high school civics class. Our teachers, if they were any good, made us memorize this one foundational piece. Mine did. I no longer remember it word-for-word, but I still remember its essence, I remember the shape of the words, scrolled in quill and ink on a page.
There are many parts, but only one part is First.
It is first for a reason. It is first because without this one thing, none of the rest of it matters. Those who constructed this foundation knew that without this one thing, we would not be able to hold our lives together.
This, my friends, if you’ll just stay with me, is that one thing… Please don’t look away. Please don’t stop reading. You’ve made it this far. It is only one paragraph. Read it. The whole thing. Absorb it. Memorize it, even. Reflect on why it is first.
The First Amendment of the United States Constitution
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 to peaceably assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
We argue passionately about race, marriage rights, abortion, guns, the environment, and so many other things. And these are worthy causes, worth debating. But we forget, in the heat of battle, that it is the right to speak our minds – this first right – that allows for such debates.
My friends, there is a reason our Founders made it first.
Because they knew if we lost the right to worship as we pleased, to speak our minds, to freely publish, to gather in protest, that the rest was already lost.
And so I beg you, as Americans, if you value your beliefs, regardless of what those beliefs may be, please, please don’t hand over your right to protest, to debate, to disagree, to petition the Government, to relinquish your first right, or all else will cease to matter.
No one will listen anyway.
Copyright © 2020 Sara Beth Wald