Now I don't want to get off on a rant here, but after September 11th, freedom of speech in America has become a topic that's touchier than a Vatican summer camp.

Our Founding Fathers were supreme champions of freedom of speech. But we should never forget that Alexander Hamilton was shot over something he said. Because in their infinite wisdom our Founding Fathers also gave us the second amendment, the right to bear arms, which is a reminder that while we can pretty much do and say whatever we want-you better watch it, asshole.

The free-speechers always argue the slippery-slope: if you muzzle free speech, before you know it, we're living in 1984 and Big Brother is picking out our ties. Those seeking to control free speech, on the other hand, argue that if we allow Johnny Soulpatch to burn the flag, before you know it, we're living in "Lord of the Flies" and Piggy is fighting for his life. But there is a middle ground between government rule and mob rule. A place where only those who can make obscure references to literature, art and pop culture on their weekly cable show will be allowed to speak freely. A utopia... if you will.

Our enemies see our diversity of opinion as evidence that we are weak and divided, but it is the very presence of a vibrant marketplace of ideas that ensures our continued survival. That, and the high-tech weapons that can lock in on the glint off a scimitar from five thousand miles away.

As much as I believe that our leaders have followed exactly the right course in wiping out the Taliban assholes who gave safe haven to the murderers of my fellow citizens, I recognize that the dissenters to the war and the verbal defenders of our enemies fulfill a vital function in our democracy. Specifically, they give me somebody to hate whose name I can actually pronounce.

As much as we don't like to admit it, you gotta say, the freedom to bash the U.S. government is a unique and beautiful phenomenon...... When done with a certain degree of panache! I've noticed that in the Middle East when they burn the American Flag, they aren't even using real flags. They are just using flags painted onto sheets. This really pisses me off because there are hard working kids in Taiwan who make our flags who can use every penny they can get.

As a matter of fact, at this point, the only thing that galls me about someone burning the American flag is how unoriginal it is. I mean if you're going to pull the Freedom-of-speech card, don't be a hack, come up with something interesting. Fashion Old Glory into a wisecracking puppet and blister the system with a scathing ventriloquism act, or better yet, drape the flag over your head and desecrate it with a large caliber bullet hole.

Once hotbeds of free speech, college campuses across the country have engaged in an arms race to see who can craft the most restrictive speech code. Years of Political Correctness, binge drinking, and dropping bing cherries out of your ass into a shotglass have bred a backlash now, where anyone who dares to stray outside the conventional school of wisdom is ostracized, slapped with the mark of Cain, and, worst of all, made to forfeit their Student Activity Fee discount to see Dave Mathews jam, and, more importantly, inspire, during Spring Fling on the Quad.

Whatever happened to the notion that college was a place where the best minds in the nation vigorously debated all sides of an issue, while the rest of us went back to the dorm and got laid? Usually by ourselves.

I have no problem with people who respond to what they don't agree with. I enjoy the drama of a toppled podium and the sound of microphone feedback as much as the next guy. What I do have a problem with are the people who fail to see the glaring hypocrisy of screaming the words "shut up" into a bullhorn.

Why should even the most repugnant ideas receive the same freedom of expression as more accepted ones? Because the American system is less a "free marketplace" of ideas than it is a playground. And the best way to dispense with unpopular ideas is to let them roam free, so they can have their asses kicked up and down the jungle gym by the cool ideas.

The ability to be critical of our government is what makes this country great. Thanks to these freedoms, we get the hip irreverence of Art Buchwald, the folksy yet politically incisive song stylings of Mark Russell, and the pun-tastic parodies of The Capital Steps. And it is for these reasons alone, we must squash free speech immediately and become a police state.

We need to let those who repulse us have their say alongside those whose speeches make us rise to our feet in applause. How else will the shiny pearl of wisdom stick out against the black velvet of stupidity? It's better to just let the Ku Klux Klan march through your town than it is to waste your time and money trying to stop them. Instead of challenging their right to free speech, use your energy to point out to your children the irony of the fat guys in the pointy hats and the pee-stained bed sheets, spouting forth all sorts of mono-syllabic eugenic claptrap, and all the while, claiming to be the master race.

Of course, that's just my opinion. I could be wrong.


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