It makes my head spin when I think about how many aspects of my life rest on the fact that I was born in the United States.

The right to an education.  The right to vote.  The right to do pretty much any damn thing I want, within the law.  Are things perfect?  No, we still have issues to work on, but all in all I feel pretty blessed to have been born in this particular country.

I suppose it’s not surprising that as a writer one of the things I’m most grateful for is freedom of speech.

pen writing

We were standing in the checkout line yesterday, picking up ingredients for BrightSide’s birthday cake, when T-man commented once again on the extensive trash magazine display.  This comes up with him often – almost every time he goes to the store with me, actually.  T-man takes serious offense at the wide array of gossip rags for sale, and he’s got strong opinions about their content.

Personally, I’m not a fan of the gossip mags myself.  (Except the occasional People magazine, if you count that one.) I imagine I’d be even less of a fan if they actually wrote about me or my family.  But the same first amendment that protects my right to blog protects their right to print whether some star has gained 40 pounds.  Do I think consumers should pay them for that sort of information?  No, not really, but that’s another discussion entirely.

I am eternally grateful for the right to say what I think without fear of unreasonable repercussions.  As part of that freedom I accept that I’m responsible for my speech, and that every “cause” (commentary, argument, letter, blog post) has an effect.  That effect may be either positive or negative, but that’s part of the deal. The United States grants me the right to speak my mind freely at the cost of accepting responsibility for what I choose to say.

I’m in.

I find it incomprehensible that there are places in the world where expressing a dissenting opinion from those in power would be enough to get you jailed, or worse.  That commenting on your country’s inequities could endanger your livelihood, your life, or your family members.

That’s assuming it’s even possible to air your views.  That you’re not living in a country where any freedom of communication – print, speech, or public gathering – has been stamped out.  Where your only source of information is from a government suppressing any free speech, whose only interest is in keeping their citizens firmly in place.

Truly, there’s a reason God blessed me with U.S. citizenship.  I honestly don’t know how long my big mouth and I would have survived in a country where women are second class citizens.  Where people are required to ignore their instincts about how human beings should be treated, instead accepting laws and a class system that bestow greater rights and privileges on certain citizens while ignoring the plight of others.

So today’s gratitude post is for the first amendment and every single day that it grants me the right to speak my mind.

My post as part of Colline’s My Gratitude Project.