speaking freely, fragments 1-4
by jason hedrick

Fragment One

The First Amendment:

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 peacefully to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Fragment Two

[I juxtaposed these three pieces and wrote the intro myself. The Auden and Waynes pieces appear later. The third piece mixed in there is a short segment from Saul Williams long poem “...said the shotgun to the head.”]

(Mahler plays)

Announcer: We now join “Speaking Freely,” already in progress...

(Lights up on two newscasters beating the hell out of one another)

(Lights up on two TV watchers transfixed)

TV Watcher 1: Huh. Wow. Those news guys are beatin’ the hell out of one another.

TV Watcher 2: (Clicking remote) Menu says, tonight on “Speaking Freely,” the hosts discuss the First Amendment...blah, blah, blah...blueprint for personal freedom...blah, blah, blah...the Bill of Rights was adopted Dec. 15, 1791...blah, blah, blah...

(They sit for a minute transfixed as one newscaster violently bashes the other’s head into the table.)

TV Watcher 2: Wow. They are beatin’ the hell out of each other.

Auden: (Sitting in bar next to two men, all transfixed on the TV above)
I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-Second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Auden (cont.): Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odor of death
Offends the September night.

Ariana: i sit in the audience
reeling from the words of the soft-spoken revolutionaries
wondering if i should hate my country
as i am strangled by my stars and stripes
mexican, armenian, cuban, puerto rican, yugoslavian, bosnian
children cry for inclusion

would you have me forget?

Auden: (Putting his books in the hands of the TV watchers)

Accurate scholarship can
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
a psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.

(The guys at the bar are re-shaped)

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

Bar Guy #1: Oh , my friends!
the greatest americans
have not been born yet
they are waiting patiently
for the past
to die

(The TV watchers are re-shaped)

TV Watcher 1: who among us can give translation
of autumn hues to morning news?

Bar Guy #2: the anchor man
thrown overboard
has simply rooted us
in history’s repeating cycle

Bar Guy #1: a nation in its SATURN YEARS
that won’t acknowledge KARMA

TV Watcher 2: where is that voice from nowhere
to remind us
that the holy ground
we walk on
purified by native blood
has rooted trees
whose fallen leaves
now color code
a sacred list of demands

Auden: Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators can do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away
The habit forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.

TV Watcher 1: where is that voice from nowhere?
the one your prophets spoke of?

Bar Guy #2: there are voices from FEAR
disconnected from their diaphragms
dangling from coffee covered teeth
that spill into our laps
and burn our privates

Bar Guy #1: there are voices
from the sides of necks
some already noosed
dangling participles
pronouns running

Bar Guy #1: for sentence
serving life
in corner offices
and ghetto corners
their voices are the same:

Newscaster 1: DEAD to themselves
numb to the possibility
of truth existing beyond
that which they can palm
in the bleeding hole
of their hands,

TV Watcher 1: There are voices of elders
who seem to do no more
than damn us
to our childish ways

Newscaster 2: for in many households
no longer comes with age

Bar Guy # 2: so where is that voice from nowhere?

TV Watcher 2: I hear voices of generals
calling for ammunition

Bar Guy #1: voices of presidents
calling for arms

TV Watcher 1: voices of women
calling for help

Bar Guy #2: but where is that voice from nowhere?

Newscaster 1: Can he be heard over the gunfire
the whizz of passing missles
the crash of buildings

Newscaster 2: the cries of children
the crack of bones
the shriek of sirens?

Audience (Ariana): or is that his mighty voice?

Fragment Three

Speaker 1: The First Amendment was written because at America’s inception, citizens demanded a guarantee of their basic freedoms.

Speaker 2: Our blueprint for personal freedom and the hallmark of an open society, the
First Amendment protects freedom of speech, press, religion, assembly,
and petition.

Speaker 3: Without the First Amendment, religious minorities could be persecuted, the
government might well establish a national religion, protesters could be
silenced, the press could not criticize government, and citizens could not
mobilize for social change.

Speaker 4: When the U.S. Constitution was signed on Sept. 17, 1787, it did not contain
the essential freedoms now outlined in the Bill of Rights, because many of
the Framers viewed their inclusion as unnecessary.

Speaker 2: However, after vigorous debate, the Bill of Rights was adopted. The First
freedoms guaranteed in this historic document were articulated in the 45
words written by James Madison that we have come to know as the First

Speaker 3: The First Amendment ensures that:

Justice Robert Jackson: if there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it
is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or force citizens to confess by word or act
their faith therein. (1943 case West Virginia vs. Barnette)

Speaker 4: And as Justice William Brennan wrote, the First Amendment provides that:

Justice William Brennan: debate on public issues should be...uninhibited, robust, and
wide open.

Speaker 2: However, Americans vigorously dispute the application of the First

Speaker 3: Most people believe in the right to free speech, but debate whether it should
cover things such as...tobacco advertising...

Speaker 1: ...or hardcore rap...

Speaker 5: ...heavy metal lyrics...

Speaker 6: ...flag burning...

Speaker 4: ... hate speech...

Speaker 7: ...pornography...

Speaker 8: ...nude dancing...

Speaker 2: ...solicitation...

Speaker 1: ...various forms of symbolic speech...

Speaker 3: ...theatre.

(A moment)

Speaker 3: Many would agree to limiting some forms of free expression, as evidenced in
State of the First Amendment Survey. Released by the First Amendment
Center each year, it is a reality check on how Americans view their
first freedoms of speech, press, assembly, religion, and petition.

Speaker 4: Among the key findings of the 2004 survey are:

• About 65% of respondents indicated overall support for First Amendment freedoms, while 30% said the First Amendment goes too far — a nine-point swing from last year and a dramatic change from the 2002 survey in which Americans were evenly divided on the question at 49% each.
• Only 1% of Americans could name “petition” as one of the specific rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.
• About 58% said that the current amount of government regulation of entertainment programming on television is “about right;” 16% said there is “too much,” while 21% said there is “too little.”
• 50% said they believe Americans have too little access to information about the federal government’s efforts to combat terrorism — up from 40% in 2002.
• Just 28% rated America’s education system as doing an “excellent”or “good” job of teaching students about First Amendment freedoms.
• About 70% said that including the words “one nation under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance does not violate the principle of the separation of church and state.
Speaker 2: Most people, at some level, recognize the necessity of religious
liberty and toleration, but some balk when a religious tenet of a minority religion conflicts with a generally applicable law or with their own religious faith.

Speaker 1: Many Americans see the need to separate the state from the church to some
extent, but decry the banning of school-sponsored prayer from public schools and the removal of the Ten Commandments from public buildings.

News Reporter: President George Washington wrote that “[t]he United States is
in no sense founded on a Christian doctrine.” Our Founding Father’s statement notwithstanding, the Texas Republican Party recently reaffirmed its platform plank exposing “the myth of the separation of church and state.”

Texas Republican Party: Christian Nation — The Republican Party of Texas affirms that
the United States of America is a Christian nation, and the public acknowledgment of God is undeniable in our history.
Our nation was founded on fundamental Judeo-Christian principles based on the Holy Bible. The party affirms freedom of religion, and rejects efforts of courts and secular activists who seek to remove and deny such a rich heritage from our public lives.

RNC Communications Director Jim Dyke:
...we are a country and party of religious freedom and to some people that means a Christian nation, to some a Jewish nation, to others a Muslim nation and to still others — who don't practice religion at all — an agnostic nation. The fact is that all of these things together are what make us a great nation.
(The Washington Times, June 13 2004)

Speaker 2: Further, courts wrestle daily with First Amendment controversies and constitutional clashes. Such difficulties are the price of freedom of speech and religion in a tolerant, open society.

Fragment Four

[From Ani Difranco’s “Self-Evident.” The cutting from this poem has changed a couple of times, but this is the last one we used.]

and every borough looked up when it heard the
first blast
and then every dumb action movie was
summarily surpassed
and the exodus uptown by foot and motorcar
looked more like war than anything I’ve seen so
so far
so far
so fierce and ingenious
a poetic specter so far gone
that every jackass newscaster was struck dumb
and stumbling
“oh my god”
“this is unbelievable”
and on and on
and I’ll tell you what
while we’re at it
you can keep the pentagon
keep the propaganda
keep each and every tv
that’s been trying to convince me
to participate
in some prep school punk’s plan to perpetuate
perpetuate retribution, perpetuate retribution...

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