The American Left used to champion free expression. We were lectured — correctly — that the price of being repulsed by occasional crude talk and art was worth paying. Only that way could Americans ensure our daily right to criticize those with greater power and influence whom we found wrong and objectionable.
When 1950s comedian Lenny Bruce titillated his audiences with the f-word and crude sex talk, liberals came to his defense. They reminded us that vulgar speech is not a crime: The First Amendment was not just designed to protect uplifting expression, but also rarer blasphemous and indecent speech.
For liberals, the burning of a flag on campus and the full-frontal nudity of Penthouse magazine were also First Amendment issues.