You Weren’t Using Your Rights Anyway

An important new opinion poll reveals that Americans know more about The Simpsons cartoon TV show than about the US Constitution. Conducted by the McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum, the poll found that only 28 percent of those surveyed could name more than one of the five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment to the US Constitution, while almost twice as many Americans (52 percent) could name at least two characters from The Simpsons cartoon show. The survey found that one in five Americans could name all five of the fictional Simpsons cartoon characters, but only one in 1,000 people surveyed (0.1 percent) were able to name all five freedoms granted under the First Amendment. The survey revealed that 41 percent of those polled could name two of the three judges from the American Idol television show - but only 8 percent could name three of their First Amendment freedoms. About one in five polled (21 percent) believed “the right to own and raise pets” is guaranteed by the Constitution, while one in five thought the right to drive is guaranteed by the First Amendment. All this from a country whose leaders claim to have a duty to spread democracy around the world.

As a professional artist living in the United States, I actively and continually exercise my First Amendment freedoms, as do most arts professionals whether they realize it or not. Freedom of Speech guarantees our right to create and display images, and Freedom of the Press guarantees our right to publish journals and run web logs like this one. Freedom of Assembly guarantees our right to present works in public places, where large gatherings of people can enjoy performances and other artistic offerings. While many artists contribute to and sustain the commercial culture that has in large part played a role in the dumbing down of America - when was the last time American arts professionals actually stood together to defend First Amendment rights? At this point in US history, if artists do not consciously struggle to protect and expand those rights, if they do not educate others as to their importance - then they will be submissively contributing to their demise.

In case you’re wondering, I’ve listed the five freedoms, along with the percentages of Americans who were able to name them in the McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum survey. Freedom of Speech (69 percent.) Freedom of Religion (24 percent.) Freedom of the Press (11 percent.) Freedom of Assembly (10 percent.) Freedom to Petition for Redress of Grievances (1 percent.) The McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum is “dedicated to helping people - especially teenagers - understand freedoms with a focus on those guaranteed by the First Amendment.” Located in Chicago, Illinois at, 445 North Michigan Avenue. Chicago, Il, 60611, the Museum opens its doors this coming Spring.

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