, Newburyport, MA


July 9, 2014

A fifth of the First Amendment

Except for tourists needing public restrooms, the most frequently asked question of a street-performer is: “Do you need a license to do this?”

Compare that to the leeway accorded pornography. While all kinds of restrictions limit its display and sale, few question the right of its very existence as they do that of buskers.

Such is public perception of the First Amendment.

That’s the 45-word paragraph connecting “free speech” to and putting it on par with matters of the press, of religion, of assembly, of petitioning government and redressing grievances.

As such, the founders clearly thought of “free speech” as one of five avenues of public engagement. Busking is public engagement. You cannot say that about pornography.

No matter: Pornography is accepted as legitimate because the financing is understood. You cannot say that about busking.

Nor does it help that recent Supreme Court decisions regarding free speech have been less concerned with content and media than with location and financing.

Money equals speech, the court continually rules, and in January 2010 they put the point on the exclamation with their 5-4 decision in the Orwellian named case, “Citizens United.”

Corporations are now people.

No one noticed the symbolic surgical strike on Mount Rushmore. As a repudiation of century-old legislation protecting farmers and laborers from exploitation by industrialists, it nullifies the reason that Theodore Roosevelt is on that mountain.

Those who applaud the decision argue that unions can also spend without limit. That’s akin to letting the bull into the china shop because the owner’s basset hound naps in the back corner.

Within two months of Citizens United, Doris Haddock of Dublin, N.H., passed away at the age of 100, a life that began with Roosevelt’s stand against corporate control of government.

Better known as “Granny D,” she became an activist for campaign finance reform in her senior years and walked across the country at the age of 90 to tell us:

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