A Distinct Difference

Published 10:20 am Friday, September 22, 2017

by Howard Coop

Although it may go unnoticed by many, Sept. 25, 2017 is a special day for every American citizen. It is an anniversary that should be celebrated joyfully by everyone.

On Sept. 25, 1789, the Bill of Rights, one of the cherished documents of American history, was adopted. That document contained the first ten amendments to the constitution of the United States. The first of those amendments declares unequivocally, “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech.” So, for two hundred twenty-eight years, citizens of this beloved nation have cherished this precious right that guarantees every citizen the right to speak freely and express their feelings and opinions without fear of recrimination.

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The Oxford Universal Dictionary defines speech as “the utterance of words or sentences,” and it defines action as “the exertion of energy or influence.” The Webster’s New World Dictionary defines speech as “expression or communication of thoughts and feelings by spoken words,” and it defines action as “the doing of something.” Looking at those definitions, it should be easy to see that there is an easily understood distinct between speech and action.

We have, it seems to me, blurred the line between speech and action. Most of us, I am sure, have seen news reports where demonstrators protesting something they did not like, breaking windows, damaged automobiles, and after stomping it, burning the flag of the United States. Were those demonstrators speaking or acting? Yet, it was reported that they were exercising their right of free speech.

While free speech is a cherished right that is guaranteed to every American citizen by the Constitution, action is not under any conditions a guaranteed Constitutional right. Therefore, every city in the United States, every state in the union and the federal government has enacted countless laws that restrict action. These laws are absolutely necessary, for they insure an orderly society.

It is time to recognize that there is a distinct difference between saying something and doing something.