I am honestly at a loss for how to impress upon people who don’t understand already, the importance the First Amendment. The Commander in Chief attacking the press--whether it’s literal by calling us the enemy or metaphorical by posting a video of himself tackling CNN--is alarming to say the least.
If you don’t understand, ask yourself these questions and honestly consider the answers: If a free press--a body created to inform the public of truth in order that the public can be free and self-governing--is considered an enemy by the head of state, what is that head of state trying to hide? What are the objectives of that head of state that he doesn’t want the public to know?
Unfortunately, it isn’t only Trump who blasts the media. I see media hate coming from both conservatives and liberals, and it is a terrifying reality.
Conservatives seem to follow the same line as Trump--the lying media, the enemy, the media skews liberal, the media doesn’t tell you the truth, any perspective they don’t like or understand can be blamed on the media.
Liberals seem to go slightly anarchical--the media won’t report on this truth, the media is in cahoots with x company, "what the media won't tell you," etc.
Both of these views are incorrect views of how a free press functions. People say they want unbiased news. Well… I think when people say “unbiased” they really mean “my personal biases.” And in fact, the role of journalism isn’t to stay completely unbiased--it is to tell the truth. Patty Calhoun, editor of the paper Westword, said, “What we’re saying is you cannot be objective because you’re going to go in with certain biases. But you can certainly pursue accuracy and fairness and the truth, and that pursuit continues.”
It’s like science: When studying a certain field, you can’t completely remove your own personal biases because they’re a part of who you are. But you can--and both scientists and journalists do--remain as objective and fair and accurate as possible. Because a liberal-leaning newspaper publishes an article critical of Trump doesn’t mean that article is incorrect or unfair. A journalist can be both liberal and fair--and we absolutely do not have a shortage of fair journalists.
As I prepare to go to graduate school for journalism, I am often surprised by some people’s reactions to that bit of information about myself. Of course there are those who are excited and because they know me, know it is a great fit. Then there are those who reply thusly:
- Oh, you should go work for Politico after you graduate. They do a lot of fair reporting--unlike all those other guys.
- Ah, yes. Good for you. We need good reporters. There isn’t any good investigative journalism anymore--you should do that.
- Good luck with that (in a smirking tone).
Now, I have nothing against Politico. In fact, I think it’s a great outlet. My problem is that the person who mentioned it seems to think Politico is the only reliable source these days, and all the other outlets are terrible. That simply isn’t true. And as for a dearth of good investigative journalism… Do you read the news? My favorite national newspapers are the Washington Post and New York Times, so I am most familiar with them but I can tell you there is excellent reporting in these newspapers. Investigative, breaking, editorial, all of it.
It is scary enough when the head of state attacks the media. But when the citizens also have a mistrust or lack of understanding of the media’s role in our free society, it becomes downright terrifying.
Frustrated by Hypocrisy
I can almost feel the rage coming off certain readers (if they’ve even made it this far) because there is a pervasive culture in America of if-you-critique-America-you-must-hate-America. To be colloquial about it, I am so done with that culture.
I am not saying you can’t love the United States of America. It should go without saying that loving your country is normal and good. However, there is so much to critique about the United States--both historically and contemporarily.
Sure, Thomas Jefferson wrote about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But, he also had slaves. He had children with (i.e. raped) one of his slaves, Sally Hemmings, and kept them as slaves.
While July Fourth marks freedom for some Americans, black Americans weren't free until the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. However, the June 19 holiday Juneteenth exists to commemorate the day slaves were finally informed of their freedom. Because of how slowly news travelled, and minimal ability by the Union army to enforce the Proclamation, word didn't reach Texas until June 19, 1865--more than two years after the initial emancipation--when Union General Gordon Granger delivered the news along with 2,000 occupying troops.
The United States is literally built on slave labor. People kidnapped from African nations; enslaved indigenous people; Chinese workers on the railroads. And that’s only a sampling of the disgrace that is slavery in our country.
Obviously, we can’t erase what has been done. But we can recognize that the legacies of slavery and genocide still impact living populations today.
In all, I am exhausted this Independence Day. I’m tired of the expected nationalism; tired of the daily horror that is Congress and our new president; emotionally drained from trying to put energy into all circles needing aid--whether financial or emotional--in this new (or rather, newly comfortable being terrible) America.
The last several months have been full of rallies, marches, protests, articles, blogs, videos, petitions, and much more all in the name of resistance. It’s wonderful to see the engagement, but it is also frustrating that it took terrible things to happen for people to become engaged. It was great to see the initial coming together of so many people, but let’s face it: It has slowed down as it has become apparent that the country didn’t immediately implode.
The country hasn’t imploded all at once, but certain populations are deeply troubled. With the rise of ICE raids, immigrant populations live in fear and are less likely to report crime. Attending meetings at mosques can be a life or death experience for Muslim-Americans. Freedoms and securities are taken away in increasing measure.
Our nation claims to be about liberty and freedom, yet Congress, the president, and state legislatures repeal freedoms. We are supposedly at the top when it comes to scientific know-how, yet leave the Paris Climate Accords despite clear evidence that humans cause climate change. Many Americans claim to be a part of Christian faiths, yet see no problem taking away social safety net policies.
More and more the notion that “all men are created equal” seems to only apply to the rich, white males to which the notion was originally attributed. Maybe in 1776 it was culturally understandable (note I said ‘culturally understandable’ not acceptable--it was never acceptable) to leave out women, the poor, and non-white Americans. But this is 241 years later--it’s time America grew up.
All this is to say, this Independence Day I am not enthralled with the holiday. Trump’s America takes the cynicism I’ve had for the U.S. for several years and puts it in a lens of shame and ambivalence. The values America purports to have are better than what we’ve become. This Independence Day, will we reflect on what has happened and what more needs to be done to ensure the safety, freedom, and opportunity of all Americans? Or will we wear t-shirts emblazoned with “Let Freedom Ring” while accepting and participating in the systematic oppression of so many people?