In school, history was one of my favorite subjects. I would become entangled in the stories and read ahead and reread infamous stories like the Boston Tea Party. Some might call it ethnocentric. My friends thought it obsessive. It didn’t matter. I could’ve read it like a novel. I was obsessed with the history of our nation, and even had a crush on a few old presidents. I still am obsessed and, maybe, still have a few crushes.
But there is a compelling part of the history, a glorious piece of paper called the Bill of Rights. As we’ve closely seen this past week and year, the First Amendment is still alive and well.
It’s a mighty and powerful right that allows voices to be heard and for people of the nation to even question their government. Even if it’s an opinion that goes against the majority, or even one that doesn’t make sense, it’s still a right. And that? That’s impressive. However, it’s a power that might exceed what we can even see.
One might even say “to whom much is given, much will be required.” Because these last few years, I’m certain the world is watching, waiting to see what will happen next, to see how we’ll use this power. And when people are outraged and worn from not being heard, things are bound to happen.
Sometimes, “things” don’t always end in the best light. We’ve seen that.
In fact, this past year we saw a lot of protests and riots. Many of them were peaceful, wanting the nation to hear them. Others weren’t. Looting and fire. People were hurt, before and after. However, some people in the nation weren’t too thrilled about it and some were. As it turns out, this wasn’t only something that defined 2020. As it looks, it might just define the entire decade.
This first week in this new year, another occurred, which I’m sure will be alive in our heads for a while. It was something I didn’t see coming. I finished working then decided to check social media and saw posts and was puzzled. This time, it was at our nation’s capital. However, there was a plot twist: Most storming into the capital were not the protesters we had seen last summer.
I understand, I do. I understand that people on both sides are unsettled and want some sort of change. They wish their voices to be heard – finally – among the power-hungry people who run the nation and are exercisiung their right to speak out. For almost everyone, it’s a special finger pointed toward power.
The mere fact that people on both sides are outraged and tired of the current status of the nation is upsetting. I get that. I might not have any power or authority to make everyone happy, but it all unsettles me. The division. The unrest. The distrust. It all urges me to move into a cabin in the middle of nowhere and only talk to squirrels.
But would I be considered naïve and probably living in a utopia if I wanted there to be another way for leaders to hear voices that didn’t involve violence or destruction? Sure, I would. But what if?
We do have this power of freedom of speech and assembly. It’s great. It’s one of the strongest gifts. Yet, I keep coming back to “to whom much is given, much will be required.”
How do we effectively use this power? I’m not sure. But we might find out sometime this decade.
— Hannah Morgan, a native of Wyoming County, is attending WVU in pursuit of a career in journalism. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.