This weekend we celebrate the birthday of our country. Many will do this by marching in a parade, getting drunk, or displaying the Stars & Stripes. But there are other ways to celebrate the sacrifices that have made America the world’s most radical experiment in free speech and free thought.
It’s not the fact that you were born here that makes America great. It’s the principles that America stands for, struggles with, and protects. So this week you’ll be honoring those who have fought and died for America when you:
* Use birth control
* Download porn
* Watch the Sopranos or South Park
* Go to a raunchy comedy club or listen to a raunchy CD
* Have non-intercourse sex
* Get a lapdance at a neighborhood club
* Have sex with someone of a different race
* Have sex with someone of the same gender
Every single one of these acts took a court decision to affirm its legality—many from the Supreme Court. Yes, the same historic court that ended racially segregated public schools was needed to decide that Americans could legally purchase contraceptives, and that whites and blacks could have sex together.
When you live your normal life this week—using condoms, watching grownup TV, shopping in private on the internet, enjoying oral sex, ignoring ads for massage parlors in your local newspaper—you’ll be honoring the lives and hard work of thousands of plaintiffs, lawyers, judges, clerks, and volunteers.
These men and women may not have died in the line of duty, but they are on the front lines, serving our country. We have no medals for Bill Baird, Phil Harvey, Mildred Loving, Sherri Williams, or other heroes who have risked their lives, freedom, money, and sanity to protect our sexual expression. They fought not against a foreign enemy, but against tremendous pressure right here at home—from tyrannical majorities, powerful minorities, vindictive government agents.
These same elements threaten our basic American rights today.
Like other freedoms, sexual freedom isn’t free. Today, on our country’s birthday, let’s remember those mostly-anonymous people who struggled and suffered to make America safer for sexual expression and the commercial and intellectual activities needed to support it.
Let’s also remember the human beings languishing in American jails simply for creating sexually explicit films that millions of grownups have bought to use in their own homes. Our government has spent our money to stop these people from expressing themselves. If these people aren’t political prisoners, who are?
Some will say that our founders didn’t suffer at Valley Forge or die at Lexington & Concord so that your niece can buy rubbers, or a guy down the street can go see a stripper, or you can hear Jon Stewart say “dickhead.”
I say that that’s exactly why people died to create America—a special country in which people have the extraordinary right to do, say, and think things of which their neighbors—and government—disapprove.