It’s July 4th – Independence Day – America’s Birthday
While the history major in me knows that the United States was not born on July 4th – and that the Declaration of Independence did not outline our constitutional freedoms (that didn’t come for 13 years) – it is a time to reflect on the values we share as Americans.
As an arts organization, we at MFA value freedom of expression.
The US Constitution does not delineate this as one of the four freedoms outlined in the First Amendment. Those are – as we all know from Civics – freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, and freedom of assembly. The term “freedom of expression” was taken from the writings by John Stuart Mill and was put into constitutional usage by Supreme Court Justice William Brandeis in 1921. (1)
But the term has been used by the Supreme Court, legislators and legal scholars ever since. According to the ACLU, freedom of expression extends not only to books, theatrical works and paintings, but also to posters, television, music videos and comic books — whatever the human creative impulse produces. (2)
This Independence Day comes as we examine what freedom of expression means to us as Americans. Everyone has the right to condemn the thoughts of others, but does that encourage freedom of expression? A free society welcomes questions – it doesn’t shut them down. We consider criticism put forward in 140 characters and we contemplate whether our leaders are embracing expression or discouraging dissent. And, most of all, we confuse analysis for censure, disagreement for disparagement. Freedom of expression does not belong to the person who can yell the loudest or longest, it belongs to all Americans. As a free society, we value a difference of opinion – even when it is difficult to hear past the noise.
At MFA we believe that art plays a part in public discourse. Art buildings bridges in the community between people and ideas.
So have an idea and share it. Who knows – it might change the world!
I hope you use today as artists to express yourselves. Find joy in your creations – or demonstrate your frustration with the world around you. For above all – it’s about sharing your thoughts and ideas.
And…if you are so inclined…you can exercise your freedom of expression by entering your work in an MFA juried exhibition – and show the world what you are thinking!.
At MFA, we want to see what you have to say!
MFA Executive Director