According to newly minted Secretary of State John Kerry, the 1st Amendment is tantamount to a “right to be stupid“:
“People have sometimes wondered about why our Supreme Court allows one group or another to march in a parade even though it’s the most provocative thing in the world and they carry signs that are an insult to one group or another… The reason is, that’s freedom, freedom of speech. In America you have a right to be stupid – if you want to be”
While Americans indeed have a right to be stupid, as evidenced by the last General Election, Kerry’s statement is, at best, a cop-out.
Free speech and assembly are not there to protect the “right of the stupid” but to protect both individuals and society as a whole from the machinations of government. The 1st Amendment does not exist because we cherish the stupidity of others, or their exercise of stupidity; indeed a just and virtuous society has a moral obligation to point out and reject stupidity. The 1st Amendment exists because the rights that it enshrines are inalienable rights that we all have regardless of whether the government recognizes it or not.
That Kerry emphasized Americans as being free to be stupid as explanation for American Exceptionalism is pernicious and odious. But if that “stupidity” is what made Americans great, then perhaps Kerry, along with the rest of the Obama administration, out to just “Dare to Be Stupid.” A little mood music: