The greatest of the freedoms we enjoy are those affirmed, after independence was won, in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which reads: "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."
These freedoms are the true genius of America. The freedoms to speak freely, to practice any religion or none at all, and to have an independent and inquiring press are precious beyond measure. As such, we must guard them vigilantly, and defend them against legislated subversion, for history instructs us that once freedoms are restricted in the name of "protecting" freedom, they cannot be won back without a struggle.
As Americans, we are defined not by our military, our leaders, nor our culture. We’re defined by our ideals. The ideals on which this country was founded, and by which we live, are our profound inheritance. They are every generation’s to safeguard, or to squander.
A democracy invites and tolerates the clash of opinions, and understands its obligation to search for common ground. A democracy recognizes that there are intelligent people supporting each side of every issue. Every truth has an answering truth. There exists no issue facing us truly as simple as a choice between two absolutes. If we cannot have open discourse about the ideals by which we live, then we do not live in a democracy.
Upholding the ideal of democracy means never suppressing an opposing opinion. Upholding the ideal of democracy means never dissuading ourselves from speaking out, despite those who would criticize, ridicule, or otherwise attempt to prevent us from doing so. After all, contrary opinion is not treason; dissent is not weakness in the national resolve. Freedom dies when citizens follow leaders without question.