Shoot your television; love your books

Shelley Blundell

As a future journalist, I make sure to always remember the first amendment, to remind myself of the things that shape my career and help form the world I will one day be earnestly reporting on.

However, I have always known I am one in million – or one in 6.75 million, according to an article I read on MSNBC.com last week.

According to the article, only one out of every four Americans can name more than one of the five freedoms constitutionally guaranteed to every citizen by the First Amendment. But more than half of the Americans surveyed could name at least two members of “The Simpsons.”

If this isn’t bad enough, the McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum study (which discovered this startling fact) also found that 22 percent of Americans can name all five of “The Simpsons” characters, while only about 1 in 1,000 Americans can name all five First Amendment guarantees.

As a student of history, I am mildly appalled at these statistics.

But as a human being, I am absolutely flabbergasted.

When discussing this article with a friend, I was told that while history in schools is presented in a somewhat haphazard and often dry manner, “The Simpsons” has been a part of most Gen-Xers’ lives for upward of a decade and has been constantly reinforced by reruns, crass commercialization and obsessive marketing of Simpsons-related merchandise.

Let me tell you, I have never heard a more pitiful excuse in my life.

Here are a few reasons why I think knowing the five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment are worth more than a complete list of “Simpsons” family members:

1) If I so choose, I can go to a Yiddish Shabbat, a Catholic Mass and Methodist Service all in one weekend.

2) If I so choose, I can stand in my front yard and declare myself Napoleon’s direct descendant (although I may suffer neighborhood ridicule and a padded van ride).

3) If I so choose, I can work for a newspaper that openly questions every aspect of authority I am forced to deal with on a daily basis.

4) If I so choose, I and a group of my friends can protest outside a supermarket chain that refuses to employ people over the age of 65.

5) Every aspect of my government that causes me pain or consternation can be talked about in an open forum, and, even better, I can send a letter to the president complaining about these things, if I so choose.

I honestly believe that First Amendment-guaranteed freedom of religion, speech, the press, peaceable assembly and government petition for a redress of grievances are not mere “history facts” that should be forgotten. Everybody who claims to be a “true-blue American” should nurture and protect these freedoms as if their life depended on it, because in practically every way, it does.

So next time you settle before the boob-tube for yet another “The Simpsons” rerun, why not flip to the History Channel instead? Or better yet, pick up a book. While freedoms are continually in danger, I don’t think “The Simpsons” will ever have the power to start a civil rights movement.

Shelley Blundell is a senior magazine journalism and history major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected]