Here in America, we like to talk a lot about freedom. It’s a word you hear quite often. People take its meaning and importance for granted, but at least we’re aware of the word.

We have a lot of amendments, and they all speak to situations in which people may find themselves in their American lives. But the first amendment is the only one that dictates how we live and behave every day of our lives.

Unfortunately, in liberal cities like Seattle, people are willingly giving up their first amendment freedom.

Having lived in five cities in the United States, along with some time in Europe, Seattle is easily the most repressed place I’ve ever been.

People in Seattle, and I suspect liberal cities like it across the country, are simply afraid to say, well… anything.

They won’t tell you what they think of the food at the restaurant, the Mayor, their boss, what you’re wearing, if they really want to join you, who’s getting their vote, the best route home, if they’re happy, if they’re miserable, if you’re really their friend, will they give you a good referral for that job, or if they actually can’t stand speaking with you.

This is life without the First Amendment, it’s spreading across America, and it’s making life untenable.

The First Amendment is the one Amendment that actively touches all of us every day. It gives us the freedom to say what we’re thinking, share our points of view, and learn from others without fear.

Or that’s what it should be.

Unfortunately, in our more liberal cities, and much of America, in general, people have slowly created all sorts of reasons to live in fear of speaking our minds. You can lose a job. You can lose a friend. You can not get hired, or even considered. Twitter or Facebook might close your account. It can end your marriage. The negative consequences are endless.

I can’t pinpoint when in history we all got so scared of hearing alternative points of view – or sharing them. But it has to stop. We have to revitalize the First Amendment. Now!

The greatest source of division in this country is that no one listens, and everyone’s afraid to speak. We’re not sharing ideas. We’re not challenging each other’s assumptions. We’re not doing the rigor on our most closely held beliefs.

Argument and debate is good. It’s great. It’s critical.

When you hear an idea, you have three choices: 1) You can reject it, and reaffirm your own beliefs, 2) You can accept it and adjust your worldview accordingly, or 3) You can see some merit that may take you to a completely new way of thinking, independent of your previously held view or the one you just heard.

But none of that happens if we’re afraid to talk and afraid to listen.

There’s not going to be any great wave or marketing campaign to fix this. It has to happen one person at a time. And it won’t be easy because we don’t trust one another.

So if you are going to let someone speak their mind, make sure you reward them for doing so by creating a comfortable environment for them and reinforcing the behavior. Let them know how much you appreciate hearing the ideas and ensure this doesn’t make you hate them for it.

We have many important Amendments (the Second is looking pretty good right now…), but the First Amendment is one we carry with us every day. If we don’t feel safe in the freedom to express our thoughts and ideas, then we’re already throwing away one of the most important aspects of being human.