The Duncan Banner


July 1, 2012

What are these ‘freedoms’ Americans are celebrating?

DUNCAN — It’s the nation’s birthday once again and while the charcoal is heating up on Wednesday, you need to get a lively discussion going to kill some time. Right?

Last week, there was plenty of debate fodder created when the Supreme Court made rulings on two crucial and controversial constitutional cases. As you would expect, the results of those rulings have brought out every amateur constitutional expert in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.

Well, since the Fourth of July is the day we celebrate our freedoms, here’s a topic: Ask the folks you’re hanging out with to name all five of the freedoms our esteemed Founding Fathers put in the First Amendment.

If you and they can’t quite do it, y’all aren’t alone.

Since 1997, the First Amendment Center in Nashville, Tenn. and the American Journalism Review have conducted an annual poll focused on our freedoms. In the 2011 State of the First Amendment report, which is the most recent survey compiled, only 5 percent of Americans could name all five First Amendment freedoms.

Obviously, that’s not very many — although it’s a higher percentage than the median of 2 percent in the previous 13 surveys.

What I find disturbing about the First Amendment quiz is that 30 percent couldn’t name any of the freedoms we supposedly hold so dear.

The only First Amendment freedom a majority of those surveyed knew was freedom of speech, which was recognized by 62 percent of respondents. From there, the public knowledge of our basic rights craters.

Freedom of religion was named by 19 percent of those surveyed, and 17 percent said freedom of the press, which is discouraging to those of us with a press card.

Just 14 percent knew freedom of assembly was a constitutional guarantee, while a mere 3 percent identified the right to petition the government.

While 30 percent of those surveyed couldn’t name one of the First Amendment freedoms, almost 56 percent listed the “right to privacy.” Problem is: there is no “right to privacy” mentioned anywhere in The Constitution.

There are several court opinions supporting the notion a “right to privacy” is at least implied in The Constitution, but doing anything you want in the privacy of your home is not constitutionally protected.

In addition to questions about the First Amendment, the annual survey also includes questions on how we apply our freedoms and rights. In the 2011 survey, several questions dealt with the press, and the responses were a mixed bag.

The survey reports a combined 76 percent felt it was either strongly or mildly important to our democracy that the news media act as a watchdog on government. However, that apparently means 24 percent of us don’t care if anyone rides herd on elected officials.

Asked if the news media tries to report the news without bias, 17 percent strongly agreed and 16 percent mildly agreed. However, 47 percent strongly disagreed and 19 percent mildly disagreed.

When the survey began in 2004, 15 percent strongly agreed and 24 percent mildly agreed the media presents news without bias. The number of people who strongly believe the media is biased has risen steadily since 2007.

While debate on whether the media slants the news is as old as the nation, I think the continual rise in skepticism is fueled by 24-hour TV news channels like Fox News, MSNBC and CNN, and talk radio, where opinion gets morphed into “news.”

As the nation becomes more polarized by partisan politics, the gray area surrounding fact and opinion not only erodes public confidence in the media, it’s also entrenches the populace into camps of distrust.

Conservatives swear by what they hear and see on Fox News, while liberals tune into MSNBC to get the “truth.” CNN is now attempting to present itself as a moderate source, trying to fill a void in balance. But according to recent Gallup polls, that’s not working out so well.

Maybe a growing number of Americans don’t really want “balance” in reporting, as much as they want their political view validated.

Is that true?

Hard to say. But it’s something to mull that over while we’re celebrating our freedoms — freedoms that many of us can’t even name.

580-255-5354, Ext. 172

Text Only
  • Governor, state Legislature have misplaced priorities

    If the Oklahoma State Legislators and our Governor spent less time interfering in women’s rights to manage their bodies, creating ways to lay more taxes and fees on the middle class in order to generate more tax breaks which benefit only the wealthy while also conceiving methods with which to fill Oklahoma’s for-profit prisons, they would be doing all of us a favor. Instead, why not work to enhance funding for our schools and wage increases for all school employees? While reforming the state’s educational budget, why don’t they approve wage increases for our Oklahoma State Troopers and enlarge their Academy to insure qualified individuals are ready to fill the upcoming vacancies as many of the older force retire?

    April 9, 2014

  • Self government key to keeping politicians in check

    Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that federal campaign laws that limit the total amount of money donors can give to political parties, committees and candidates for federal office (U.S. House, Senate, and President) was unconstitutional. The ruling will not increase the current $2,600 limit on how much a donor can give to a federal candidate in each primary and general election or the $32,400 limit that can go to a national party committee. Those limits are still in place.  The ruling will instead remove the limit on how many candidates/committees to which a donor can contribute.

    April 9, 2014

  • Legislative goals crucial to priorities in education

    I am a member of several professional organizations where I attend regular meetings, network with colleagues, and stay abreast and informed on education best practices.  The Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration, better known as CCOSA, is a nonprofit organization that establishes close and continuous communication and cooperation between educators, taxpayers, and legislators to improve the effectiveness of professional school administrators and to communicate the needs of schools. Attendance this time of year is especially critical because legislators are in session.

    March 28, 2014

  • An impressive ranking that could be better

    That Duncan was named one of the best 15 communities in Oklahoma by Movoto, a national Real Estate company, is news worth celebrating.
    Of 43 places with population of 10,000 or more, as determined by the U.S. Census data, Duncan finished 15th. Norman was first, Edmond second, Yukon and Moore tied for third and Bethany was fifth.

    March 9, 2014

  • Kids shouldn’t have to pay for having punster parents

    Friends and neighbors, I’ve been cloistered in my Thought Chamber for the past few days, contemplating many high-brow philosophies and haughty hypothesis that we who think on a different level use to exercise our finely-tuned minds and remain intellectually superior to the Great Unwashed.
    As you see, the time alone has been intellectually beneficial. I just composed an opening sentence (what we in the journalism dodge call a “lead”) that’s 46 words long.

    March 9, 2014

  • The blissful serenity of No-TV Land

    Life without TV is possible. Maybe you should try it. I did. It’s a do-able thing, I tell you. I’m still here, no worse the wear, no oozing wounds, no serious loss of brainwave activity except for the slow, inexorable downhill decline that already started when TV viewing was a daily occurrence.

    Granted, two months without the tube is quite likely not a scientifically acceptable sample from which is to hold forth. But it’s the best I can do, so deal with it.

    March 9, 2014

  • Cooper’s message is to remain active

    Dr. Kenneth Cooper, the Dallas physician who coined the phrase “aerobics” more than four decades ago, who has become a world leader in physical fitness and who has saved, literally, thousands of lives by promoting the value of an active lifestyle, shared his philosophy of life here last week.

    March 9, 2014

  • Time to take the “B” out of the “Three R’s”

    Our young folks are hitting the stretch drive toward the end of another school year, during which they’ve been taught “Three R’s”, which are not really “r’s” at all.
    In case you missed it, reading is the only one of the “Three R’s” that actually begins with the letter “r.” Writing starts with a “w” and arithmetic begins with the letter “a.” There are two reasons we drop the “w” from “writing” and the “a” from “arithmetic”: 1. For poetic flow in the age-old saying; and, 2. many people have a secret yen to talk like the Beverly Hillbillies.

    February 23, 2014

  • Thank you for lettin’ me be myself again

    Friends and neighbors, hope I don’t sound like the biggest egomaniac since Donald Trump, but you know, I am the most interesting person I’ve ever known.
    Forgive me if — on first blush — that sounds like the most totally self-aggrandizing statement you’ve ever heard. And if you’ve headed to the restroom to express an editorial opinion about the statement above, I’ll stop for a couple minutes.

    February 15, 2014

  • Buzz misfired in Vanity Fair body slam of Duncan

    As the new kid in town, I’m reluctant to leap atop the ramparts to defend the honor of Duncan, Okla., my new adopted hometown.
    But to heck with that. When an out-of-towner comes into your house and soils your rug, it’s on.
    I speak, of course, about the article in Vanity Fair magazine about Duncan and the  killing last year of Chris Lane, the Australian who was gunned down in August.

    January 24, 2014