During a recent gubernatorial debate held at the University of Alabama, students were reportedly given maps that illustrated approved “First Amendment areas” around campus.
Granted, public order and security are important considerations when political candidates gather. But the way U of A officials worded the restrictions — as though they had the power to decide where the Constitution applies and where it doesn’t — caught my eye. Words are important. Word choices often reveal deeper truths about how people see themselves in relation to government and society. For instance, when liberals talk about how tax cuts “cost” the government billions of dollars, it shows that they view our money as something that belongs to the government by right. Keeping our own money counts as a government expenditure in their eyes. Little wonder that liberals are so keen to raise taxes.
Similarly, when U of A officials talk about First Amendment “areas,” it sounds like they are treating the United States Constitution as something subject to their own personal prerogatives. While it might make sense, under these circumstances, to designate specific areas for organized political demonstrations, I can’t help but be bothered by the idea of First Amendment “areas.” Again, the words U of A administrators choose reveal something about how they view the world.
I invite David French, our resident expert in constitutional law, to correct me if I’m wrong here, but I simply can’t recall ever seeing the cartographic section of the Constitution, showing where the First Amendment applies and where it doesn’t.