Authenticity   /   Fall 2021   /    Book Reviews

Myths Have Their Reasons…

Exploring myth as background and subject matter for politics.

Isaac Ariail Reed

Plato’s Cave (detail), sixteenth century, attributed to Michiel Coxie (1499–1592); Musée de la Chartreuse de Douai, France; Peter Horree/Alamy Stock Photo.

Curio · The Hedgehog Review | Myths Have Their Reasons

We presume we know what we are talking about when we cite the First Amendment. When pressed, we may defer to the expert interpretations of a lawyer who specializes in First Amendment cases, or a judge whose perspicacity we respect. Nonetheless, when imagining life together under the Constitution, we have a set of understandings about what the First Amendment has to say about the relationship of government and religion, or about what it means to have a free press, or about the right to “assemble.” Indeed, even when we disagree on its application, certain background meanings obtain. Typified stories of famous cases, “classic” legal defenses, or sayings first communicated to us by a teacher are brought to mind; memories of movies in which characters dramatically invoke the amendment, play in our mind’s eye. In other words, the cultural background of the First Amendment is made up of stories and images: of students wearing unpopular religious symbols (or offensive T-shirts) to school, of churches contesting the regulation of their employment practices by the federal government, of open speech in the street and newspaper editors leaned on by politicos in back rooms, of Forrest Gump being swept into an antiwar rally.

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