The 365 Commitment

Day 132 – Your Freedom of Speech

Ralph Waldo Emerson, in his essay on Self-Reliance, eloquently states, “To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, – that is genius.” This assertion lays the groundwork for an exploration into the profound impact of individual thought and expression on society, a theme that remains deeply relevant in our era of rapid technological advancement and mass communication.

Before the digital age, with its instant access to information and platforms that give voice to millions, there was Ralph Waldo Emerson. A pivotal figure in American history, Emerson emerged as one of the first major personas to sustain a living through writing. He served as a beacon of inspiration for a burgeoning spirit among American literary writers and philosophers. This group collectively cherished a core belief: through our personal thoughts and unique individualism, through our free will and actions, we can uncover within our souls the path to universal truth. In essence, they sculpted the very notion of what it means to be an American.

This spirit, championed by Emerson and his contemporaries, thrives to this day. Despite the dominance of visual media—dramatic performances, streaming services, and blockbuster films—the proliferation of American written content continues unabated. When viewed from a numerical perspective, U.S.-based publications vastly outnumber those from any other country, across every conceivable category, from books to digital content, and from blogs to newspapers. The disparity is striking. In one significant aspect, the population of the United States stands united: in the exercise of the fundamental freedoms of speech and the press.

The American Transcendentalism movement, initiated by Emerson in the early 19th century, persists with remarkable vigor. The rise of social media and other digital platforms has not only sustained but amplified this movement, bridging the gap in publication across various forms of media including podcasts, streaming content, movies, music, and videos. Americans are not just prolific consumers of content; they are equally adept producers, contributing to a rich and diverse tapestry of thought and expression.

Reflecting on the contemporary American landscape, it’s interesting to consider the impact of the First Amendment in comparison to that of the Second Amendment, particularly regarding the proliferation of small arms. Yesterday I heard a commentator on a news program talk about how impossible it was to regulate fire arms in the United States, due to the wide spread proliferation. However, it was during a moment of contemplation in my grandmother’s office, surrounded by shelves brimming with books, that a profound realization struck me. The amount of speech and the written word that the population has in our homes is even more incredible. The sheer volume of written words consumed by my wife and me is staggering, underscoring the fact that, above all, the American people have exercised their right to freedom of speech to an extraordinary degree. Social media and related technologies have exponentially magnified this expression.

This leads to a pivotal question: Is the genius of the human mind, as Emerson proposed, found in the expression of one’s original thoughts? Does articulating our personal truths unveil a greater meaning towards which we can collectively aspire? Given the rapid increase and continued acceleration of both the written and spoken word, it appears we are on a journey to discover just that.

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