Fight for Your (Constitutional) Right To Party

I doubt when Adam Yauch (RIP)and his fellow Beastie Boys wrote “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party)” they had the Constitution in mind. Their hit single from their 1986 Licensed to Ill was, in fact, written as a parody of the rock anthems celebrating drunken exploits and the party culture big haired rock seemed to value above all common sense and reason.

Like every other 17 year old, though, I completely missed the point. Hell, yeah, we would yell when the song came on the radio, “Turn it up!” It was the weekend (or, at least close to the weekend) and we were tired of our “teacher preach (ing) class like [we were] some kind of jerk.” Like every other generation of teenagers, we cut loose and did things we weren’t supposed to do, hoping we wouldn’t get caught. We smoked in the boys room, raced for pink slips (or even just for fun) down by the river, fought in the fields outside of down, and, in general, tested the limits of good behavior by doing all those things our parents told us not to do. No doubt bad things happened, but we were living, growing, and becoming. There is something pretty educational about being stupid sometimes.

While I’m certainly old enough to recognize the folly of the past and I would never condone drinking and drug use as a viable and necessary part of one’s teen age years, I would argue that those follies and indiscretions were part of that long hard slog to adulthood. Harsh and cold as it may sound, some people made it to the other side and some didn’t. Alan Ginsberg wasn’t the only one who saw the “best minds of” his generation destroyed.

That destruction, and those who survived, though were part and parcel of chasing the American dream. The glory of American democracy, in some respects, is our freedom to take chances and live on the edge to find out where our comfort zone might rest. We have, simply put, a Constitutional right to be a dumb ass.

But the greatest glory of American Exceptionalism, with all due respect to Vladimir Putin, is that our country was built on ideals, symbols, and abstract concepts. No one willingly dies for the piece of red, white, and blue cloth. We can sew millions of those. Our soldiers die for that undefinable freedom, that feeling when the colors fly across the sky.

Certainly, we can think of examples that represent freedom, but the word itself exists as a truth within each of us. And it has to stay that way. The moment we create a hard and fast definition is the day we become divided. When we begin to demand, either culturally or politically, that specific political views, religions, or behaviors are un-American, we limit those people willing to defend the core ideas of America. Dogma, too often, is just another word for intolerance.

I wrote in a previous blog about Geo Listening, a company hired by schools to monitor their students’ social media sites for “troubling words and images” and about the new HR trend of using google searches as a supplemental part of the hiring process. The issue, as I noted then, isn’t that we shouldn’t be held accountable for our actions. The issue is that we are allowing these schools and companies to increasingly define appropriate social behavior. In defining what we can’t let people do, we are in fact limiting what they can do. The impact is a slow erosion of growth, and, in too may ways, legislating childhood out of existence.

In 1986, indiscretions might get you a ticket, you might spend a night in jail, or, more than likely, you simply got driven home and warned to show better judgment next time.The assumption at the time was that you would outgrow such things. We forgave youthful indiscretions.

In 2013, that same decision might get you living under a bridge or in your parent’s basement while you work the only dead end job you can find. The system, too easily, defines us. That slap on the wrist in 1986 has become a pair of handcuffs in 2013.

Worse yet, we are sitting by and letting it happen.

We need to “Fight for [Our] Right To Party” before we wake up one morning (hungover or not) and that right has been taken away.

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About John Wegner
John Wegner is a Professor of English where he also serves as the Dean of the Freshman College. He and Lana, his wife, have been married over 25 years. They are the parents of two great sons who (so far) haven't ever needed bail money.

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Things I Read

And Things I Learned

Washington Monthly

Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

Joanne Jacobs

Thinking and Linking by Joanne Jacobs

Inside Higher Ed

Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

FiveThirtyEight

Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

Balloon Juice

Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

Scott Adams' Blog

Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

The Full Feed from HuffingtonPost.com

Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

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