The United States of America is not a place. It’s not a flag. It’s an idea. The idea was set forth in the Constitution. If you bother to read the Constitution, what you find out is that it’s mostly just nuts-and-bolts instructions about how to run a government. Yeah, there are some good ideas there, but really, it’s about as exciting and revolutionary as the instructions for assembling a cheap Wal-Mart bookshelf. The part that is groundbreaking, and breathtaking, is the bit tacked on at the end—the Bill of Rights.
And the one that comes first is the most important. “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.” Now, I know that some of y’all really love that Second Amendment. And the Fifth, and Ninth, and Tenth are pretty awesome, too. And even the Third is underrated—who among us wants a bunch of soldiers hanging out in the rec room, drinking up the beer and scratching up the pool table? But the Founding Fathers—and y’all keep telling me how important their intentions are, all the time—put the First Amendment first. That should tell you how important they thought it was.
And it’s what makes this country America. Up to that time, pretty much every country in the world reserved the right to make you worship the way they wanted you to worship, and they could throw you right in prison for saying the wrong thing, or writing the wrong thing, and if you decided to have yourself a Million-Man March, or a Vietnam War Protest, or God-help-you, a Tea Party Rally, they could beat you with nightsticks, or squirt you with fire hoses, or do whatever they did to people who mouthed off in the 1700s. But the First Amendment changed all that. It protected your right to say whatever stupid-ass thing you wanted to say, or to worship Baal if that was your predilection. If you didn’t like what the government was doing, the First Amendment gave you the right to bitch about it. In other words, the First Amendment says that you are a human being, and you have the right to think whatever you want to think.
Now, I know some of you don’t like Islam, and that’s your right (your First Amendment right!). I know I don’t like it, what with the beating women down, and the blowing shit up, and the America-hating and whatnot. But guess what—I don’t like your fucked-up religion, either, whatever it is. I don’t like that you think that your god should have some say into whether I can buy a beer on Sunday, or that you think that somehow posting the Ten Commandments up in the courthouse makes sense, or that I shouldn’t be able to marry a dude if I get hit by lightning and burn out the heterosexuality circuits in my brain. I don’t like that you think that your god should have some input into my biology classes. But I’ll tell you this—I would fight to the death to defend your right to believe whatever crazy-ass thing you want, and there’s not many things in this world that I think are worth dying over. The First Amendment is the United States of America. It’s why your grandfather died on Omaha Beach, and why your uncle came back from Vietnam as your crazy uncle. The First Amendment is the “free” in “The Land of the Free.”
I never liked George W. Bush (how’s that for an understatement?) but he said something once that was pretty insightful (especially for him). Somebody asked him why the Muslim extremists didn’t like us, and he replied something along the lines of “They hate us for our freedom.” And he was right. They don’t hate us for our freedom to choose from eight flavors of Mountain Dew, or our freedom to help select the next American Idol. They hate us because we don’t have to worship their god if we think their god is silly. If the people who died on 9-11 are heroes, here is why—they died because of the First Amendment.
We should be reveling in the fact that people can build goofy religious buildings wherever they like. We’re the United Fucking States of America, and we’re not afraid of your religion. If you like, you can ignore what the First Amendment means, but if you do, you’re no American. Yeah, a mosque down by the big hole in the ground might hurt some people’s feelings, but if you want to suspend the First Amendment for that, you’re no better than somebody who thinks it’s okay to kill people because they dared to make a cartoon of Mohammed (remember how we made fun of those people?). And if you’re a person that would demagogue this—somebody who would undermine the First Amendment to score political points, or to attack the President because you don’t like him—I’m talking about Sarah Palin, and Newt Gingrich, and I’m talking about you—than you’re no patriot. You’re a treasonous rat bastard who isn’t worth the spilled blood of the American soldiers and the other martyrs of our freedoms.