我认为人权法案中最根本和最重要的自由保障是第一条修正案。同时它也是生活在中国和生活在美国的最大的不同点之一。如果一个人不能表达他的真实想法和追随他的信仰﹐那么他有什么样的真自由﹖一旦建立独立的思想和行动﹐任何事都是可能的。当独立思考和行动受到限制﹐整个社会的思想和行动也就受到限制。在中国﹐最近有关古狗扩张的争论表示政府有另外一个控制民众是否能够取得资讯的新渠道。几十年来中国的电影﹑书籍和媒体已经被装进了中国政府认为合用的几个整齐的小碎块。在一个国家里﹐一部电影带有一个被禁的片名﹐比方“断背山”(在中国遭到禁演﹐虽然导演李安是赢得奥斯卡最佳导演奖的第一个亚洲人) 可以赢得一座奥斯卡奖﹐这种对于艺术的限制似乎很不合理。在一个可以创作非常具有颠覆政府意义的记录片﹐如麦克‧ 摩尔(Michael Moore)制作的“华氏9/11”(Fahrenheit 9/11)的影片﹐还不被禁演的国家里﹐这样的控制似乎走到极端。
当然﹐别的国家也有宪法和文件保障民众的一些权利。中国的宪法就是一个例子﹕它的开头几行高贵地宣布人民的权利。和美国不同的是﹐在美国﹐这些权利是理所当然的。这不是坏事﹐因为这表示美国的人权法案不仅是一个有形的文件﹐还深深的印进民众的心里和脑中﹐而在中国﹐民众不敢表达他们真正的想法﹐ 因为宪法的承诺并没有得到实际上的保障。至于美国的儿童﹐从很小的时候开始﹐就可以听到他们对于反对他们言论的某个人宣布他们的言论自由。 由于整个系统的支持﹐人权法案的最初10条修正案的断言和保证一再维护法律上的运作。 这种有关个人权利的稳定性和确定性是我的父母移民到美国的主要原因。我们愿意花费数年的时间申请和等待归化入籍﹐以便能够像美国儿童那样﹐如此自由和有信心的要求享有人权法案第一修正案的权利。
The Bill of Rights: An Asian-American Perspective
I lead a double life. Every day, I go to school and learn United States History alongside my American friends. In this environment, I am an average American teenager who just happens to have black hair and black eyes. I enjoy the same music, read the same books, and complain about the same teachers as the rest of my peers. Every night, I go home to my born-and-bred Chinese parents and have a bona fide Chinese dinner, complete with rice and chopsticks. Here, my Chinese side dominates as I converse with my parents in a strange hybrid language that includes both English and Chinese. This parallel lifestyle of mine provides me with two names, two different cultures with different traditions, and two ways of looking at life. This exposure to forms of government and society other than those found in the United States allows me to appreciate the Bill of Rights in a way that a naturally born American cannot, because I cannot take it for granted.
In my opinion, the First Amendment is the most elemental and important guarantee of liberty in the Bill of Rights. It is also one of the biggest differences between life in China and life in the United States. If one cannot even express his true thoughts and follow his own beliefs, what kind of freedom does one truly have? Once independent thought and action are established, anything is possible. When independent thought and action are limited, so is an entire society. In China, the recent controversy about the expansion of Google would mean that the government would have another way to censor the information given and received by its citizens. For decades now in China, movies, books, and the media have been formed into neat little pieces of what the Chinese government deemed appropriate. In a country where a movie with a taboo subject such as “Brokeback Mountain” (banned in China although the director, Ang Lee, was the first Asian to win the Oscar for Best Director) can win an Oscar, this limitation of the arts seems unreasonable. In a country where documentaries can be produced that are so blatantly subversive to the government, as Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11” was, and yet not be ostracized from society, this censorship seems extreme.
America has not been perfect in this regard. There are instances of censorship and violation of rights in history, but during times of war and social upheaval. The important thing is that in the end, the rights of the individual come out on top. We are used to expressing our opinions freely and that is as it should be, because in a country where censorship of speech and writing is practiced, writers begin to censor themselves. Imagine the art the world has lost to the limiting of creativity and emotion. To me, an avid reader, The Bill of Rights guarantees the extension of art and literature into the future, allowing it to reach ever-loftier heights.
Of course, other countries have constitutions and documents guaranteeing certain rights to their citizens. China’s Constitution is an example of this: its first few lines nobly proclaim the rights of its citizens. The difference between it and the United States is that in America, these rights are taken for granted. This is not a bad thing, because it means that besides just being a tangible document, the U.S. Bill of Rights is stamped in the hearts and minds of its citizens, whereas in China, citizens dare not express their true ideas because the promises of the Constitution are not supported in reality. From a very young age, American children can be heard claiming their right to free speech if someone disagrees with what they say. Time and again, the assertions and guarantees of the first ten amendments are upheld Ðthe laws work because the entire system works in their favor. This kind of stability and certainty concerning the rights of the individual is the major reason my family immigrated to the United States. We are willing to undergo years of applications and waiting in the naturalization process in order to be able to claim our First Amendment rights in the same way that American children do so freely and confidently.
What does the Bill of Rights mean to me, an American? The same thing it means to me as a Chinese-American: the right of personal choice. It means determining for myself my religion or what I want to say and about whom I want to say it. It means reading the true version of the daily news, not the government-censored version, when I open my newspaper. It means that when the government does things that I do not agree with, I have the right to petition it, and assemble peacefully with people who share my views without fear of persecution. In many other countries around the world, the government has already decided what can and cannot be exposed to its citizens before it is released into the public. In the United States, under freedom of speech and press, I decide for myself. Freedom of the mind to think and come to independent conclusions is not the only form of freedom, but it is the most important for this is where everything springs from. I am proud to be an American. I am grateful to my parents for providing me with this opportunity by bringing me here, and I am content to know that my children will enjoy and be able to take for granted the right to live their lives any way they decide.