OK….So I know that there are any number of troubling and disturbing developments of late that have kept many liberal or progressive or even moderate Americans in a state of constant “high hover .” Against that backdrop I have tried personally to find some degree of intellectual and emotional balance because I don’t think I can do years of outrage and anger without become far too brittle and hard for my liking. I’ve tried to find my happy place…I think of puppies….treks in the Himalayas….sunset on the plains in the Kalahari. I try to find my “zen”
But, even as I try not to rant and rave, I know we can’t wrap ourselves in cloaks of indifference or pretend that there aren’t real issues crying out for us to take a stand that will define us. In know that we must continue to speak and to act and that we cannot we let ourselves be cowed by the bullying of ideological goon squads that walk the halls of power.
And today was one of those days that I felt I needed to do SOMETHING. So I wrote Senators and Representatives ( a dozen of them) and I called another whose online contact form didn’t work. What did I say? Variations on this theme:
“It was with shock and dismay that I just saw the latest reports that the White House has denied various media outlets access. Whether this is a one-time action or a new policy that will be for the longer term is not the point. The action itself is a chilling statement of the direction this administration seems determined to go.
I could rant at length but I know it is not necessary. As someone who has served our nation for many years with distinction you know the dangers and threats inherent in this path. I look to you, as do all our fellow-citizens, to raise your voice and take meaningful action to stop this erosion of free speech and freedom of the press before it is too late.
This isn’t the time for a sound bite, this is a time for forceful action to counter the “Bannon revolution” that will see our nation’s liberties eroded further in the name of some sort of ideological purity test. My heart just broke a little bit more today for the nation I served for thirty-four years. Show us through your actions what you, and your fellow legislators believe in and what you stand for.”
Now you might fairly ask whether defense of the media is more of a “good cause” than speaking our for the rights of transgendered citizens, or forestalling the police-state style roundup of those not born in our nation, or countless other issues that trouble us. But for me, this latest outrage just pushed my buttons. I thought of the countless times I spoke to foreign officials and leaders in defense of a free press. Of the speeches I gave emphasizing the importance of free speech to democracy and acknowledging the role of our own press in asking the tough questions, in keeping us honest, and in calling us out when we failed to live up to the values we espouse.
This isn’t about politics — its about our identity, our beliefs, our values. I believe — or at least I have up until know — that the President and the leaders of our government represent the citizens who disagree with them every bit as much as they do those who voted for them. I have to ask whether that is still true today.
People marched this past week in “Not My President” marches. I am concerned that it may cut the other way…”Not My Citizens.” I worry that there may be those around the President who see him as only the President of those who agree and who greet each new executive order with adulation. Anything less and you are no longer deserving to be heard. And should you challenge…should you scrutinize questions like CNN, the NYT, Politico and others … then the answer is to try and silence them by excluding them. To declare them an “enemy of the people.” To quote the Tweeter-in-Chief: “Sad.”
I still believe that despite our differing beliefs we can and should respect each other. I believe that we share core values and that we learn from our diverse viewpoints. I believe that we are stronger when we hear alternative narratives than when we wall ourselves off from them. And I believe that if we allow actions like today’s to go unremarked, then we are at risk of seeing our civil liberties and our identity as Americans eroded and Breitbart-ized into a twisted and perverted reflection of the reality we once thought defined us.
(The views expressed in this blog are solely the personal views of the author, independent of any organization which he has worked either in the past or the present.)