In this era of misinformation and threats to free expression the ability to speak openly and truthfully is more essential than ever. Concerned for what we view as a recent erosion of respect for First Amendment rights, we’ve commissioned a new series of short essays that will serve as a platform for authors to share their own stories. The following piece is a part of that series. We asked authors to respond to the prompt, “What does the First Amendment mean to you?” and, in the spirit of the First Amendment, we’ve encouraged the authors of these essays to give imaginative voice to what they believe these freedoms mean today. (The views expressed are of course solely those of the author and are not intended to reflect the Guild’s position on any issue.)

Amendment I

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 peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

First Amendment: The Real Deal

By Roy Blount Jr.

No problem with the First Amendment, as such. “Congress shall make no law respecting. . . freedom of speech,” so forth, so on. Obviously that means dis-respecting. And what that means is, the founding fathers wanted us to always mention the First Amendment in a respectful tone. And we do! First Amendment: It’s Incredible!

Here’s what’s sad: that the very people who harp on the First Amendment, who hide behind the First Amendment, “Oh please don’t infringe on our First Amendment, wooo-ooo”—they’re so often the very people who spoil it for everybody. They’re the ones who spout unwholesome, disloyal, anti-Leader, unGod-fearing speech. They’re the ones who think the First Amendment was for them.

In real life, where does free speech fit in?

Family life? Oh, sure, kick a hornet’s nest.

The legal system? Feel free, don’t lawyer up, go ahead and confess.

In business? Free means giving it away, what’s good about that? Real people know better. We know who is always waving the First Amendment around. The lamestream media.

Not that the lamestream media is hot to exercise free speech, that’s what gets subscriptions canceled. What lamestream media wants to do is catch Leaders exercising free speech. Lamestream media is the enemy of free speech, because media is how free speech gets out.

Free speech? You can have free speech if you’re talking to somebody who agrees with you. Or, you can have free speech if you’re talking to somebody who is on your payroll. On the other hand, can you say anything you want to about your boss? Absolutely, but if it gets back to him—and it will, because there’s always somebody with big ears who wants to get back at you—you’re fired. Founding fathers never meant for the First Amendment to be binding on the boss.

Ohhhh, they say, but government’s different. Yeah, it is. Government loses money. If government was a company, it would be out of business a long time ago. And yet we see government sticking its nose into business. We know that’s got to stop. But there’s also too much government in government. We’re going to get government out of government, so we can take care of business.

“Congress shall make no law. . .” Fine. Who needs Congress? Who needs a law? The Leader is the boss. So—and I can tell you, the Congress will breathe a sigh of relief—we’re going to be totally respecting the First Amendment, because we’re going to be totally keeping it away from losers. From people who are very sick. From the lamestream media.

Am I right?

—Roy Blount Jr.


Read more from the What Does the First Mean to You series

Roy Blount Jr. is a former president of the Authors Guild and the author of 24 books, including Alphabet Juice, Alphabetter Juice, and Save Room For Pie. He is a panelist on NPR's "Wait Wait . . . Don't Tell Me," a columnist for "Garden and Gun" magazine, and a member of the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame. He lives in New Orleans and western Massachusetts.

Photo by Joan Griswold