Today, July 4th, is Independence Day in the USA.
It just so happens that I’m launching my latest novel, The King’s Redress, during First Friday at the Port Aransas Art Center, 323 N. Alister in Port Aransas, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. For my July 3, Dee-Scoveries column in The Island Moon Newspaper, I was looking for way to publicize the event and somehow tie it in with Independence Day. I ended up writing about the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States and let me tell you, in the course of researching the story I was struck anew by the enormity of the rights and freedoms guaranteed by that Amendment. It was truly revolutionary. See if you agree:
Friday, July 4th, is Independence Day.
There will be American flags flying from homes, businesses and street lamps. People wearing red, white and blue will watch parades, attend concerts of patriotic music, spend a day off work with family and friends enjoying “All American” pastimes such as at baseball games, picnics and barbecues complete with iconic eats and treats like hot dogs, apple pie and ice cream. Then at dark-thirty we’ll be treated to a fireworks display.
Earlier in the year when I slated the launch of my latest novel, “The King’s Redress,” for the first Friday in July, I somehow overlooked the fact that this would also be Independence Day. What ever does a tale set in a fantasy medieval time that features kings and queens, knights and servants and the feudal system have to do with our declaration of independence?
Not much. But that I can write it, get it published and tell you about it in The Island Moon Newspaper? Everything. It’s all made possible by the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.
The First Amendment prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances—and prohibits any law that infringes on the freedom of the press and abridges the freedom of speech. The amendment was adopted on December 15, 1791, as one of the ten amendments that constitute the Bill of Rights.
There is some speech that isn’t protected such as that which constitutes obscenity, child pornography and speech that incites others to unlawful action but for the most part, we can say what we want, including criticizing government, public policy and other people’s ideas. The Letters to the Editor in “The Island Moon” and Dale Rankin’s editorials are brought to you freely courtesy of this amendment.
During colonial times, England, the country that we sought our independence from, restricted speech. Criticizing the government was a crime. England also had an elaborate system of licensing. Nothing could be published unless one had a government-granted license.
Under colonial rule, our young nation also at first had controls on speech, particularly anything seditious or blasphemous. After the Revolutionary War, there was heated debate about freedom of speech and the press. A 1798 Act prevented the publication of writing against the United States government if it was seditious, false or scandalous but the Act expired in 1800. Today, freedom of speech is considered to be protected by default and limitations on it are the exception not the rule.
My novels also come to you thanks to the First Amendment which guarantees freedom of the press. I have the right to express myself through publication and dissemination of information, ideas and opinions without interference, constraint or prosecution by the government, and this right is not confined to newspapers and periodicals. Again, there are some controls. While we have the right to say and publish what we want, if we run around defaming people in speech or in print we can be sued for slander and libel. Nevertheless we have the right to slander and libel others if we want to pay the price for it.
Another limitation is that of copyright. As the author, I have complete control over who makes copies of and distributes my work. I can grant that license to someone else in exchange for money or even for free if that’s what I want to do. However it is mine to grant and it is illegal for someone to do it without my permission.
To stretch this “independence” theme a little further, over the past few decades it’s become easier for authors to make our work available without the assistance of literary agents and publishers. We don’t have to plead with and depend on someone else to publish our work. We can do it ourselves. That makes me and authors like me “indie authors.” My career as an “indie” began in 1988 when my late husband and I self-published a 500-page textbook on how to drive an 18-wheeler. That book is still in print, by the way, in an updated edition. Recent advances in technology have made it much less expensive to self-publish and that technology has filled bookshelves and e-reader devices with works that otherwise might never have seen the light of day. These aren’t “wannabes” who couldn’t get their work published any other way. “Indie” authors such as Amanda Hocking and Hugh Howey are as commercially successful as traditionally published authors.
So there you have it. I invite you to help me celebrate our rights and freedoms, “Indie-pendence” Day and the launch of my latest novel, “The King’s Redress” during First Friday, July 4 at the Port Aransas Art Center. Come on by 323 N. Alister St. in Port Aransas between 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. There will be refreshments and live music. (The City of Port Aransas fireworks show later on will be a happy coincidence.) I’ll see you there.