Freedom Of Speech Under Siege

Freedom Of Speech Under Siege

Trump Administration doesn't want to allow First Amendment Rights.

Oysters, rockfish, and sustainability. The Chesapeake Bay is one of the largest estuaries in the United States and is the third largest in the world. This important body of water is home to thousands of species, a plethora of different habitats for them to live in, and stretches from Maryland to Virginia.

It is one of few successful aquatic ecosystems in the US, and part of keeping it productive requires funding and awareness. The Chesapeake Bay Journal is a nonprofit and free paper that focuses on the activity in their beloved natural resource as well as providing volunteer work to keep as much waste out of the bay as possible.

Shortly after publishing an article containing concerns about the Trump administration and their beliefs on climate change, offshore drilling, fish conservation, and water regulation, Scott Pruitt (the head of the Environmental Protection Agency), allowed the grants for the Chesapeake Bay Journal to be pulled. The Bay Journal was expecting an installment of their grant amounting to $325,000, which was given primarily due to their programs that help clean up trash and debris from the bay area.

News of this funding cut was sent to the Journal in the form of a three-sentence email noting them that the EPA was no longer going to give them the $1.95 million grant because of a, “shift in priorities.” What’s more, the Journal had received satisfied reviews from the EPA, and in no way had they received any warning that this kind of measure would be taken. Upon receiving this news some of the reporters left the journal due to its precarious funding.

What was left of the journal set out to defend the organization, of which the Chesapeake Bay depends upon to help maintain and spread awareness of its current ecological status. They filed an appeal in November of 2017, attempting to reinstate their grant in full. They obtained as many documents as they could from the EPA using the freedom of information act.

The following civil action case between the Journal and the EPA had gone as one might of expected. The EPA has many more resources than the Journal and was able to refute all of their defenses in municipal court.

After the fact, Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin (D) began to pressure Scott Pruitt to undo the termination of the Journal’s funding. Along with Cardin, Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D) called out Pruitt and asked the EPA’s reasoning behind the funding cut, and if it was specifically for political reasoning. Pruitt did not respond. A few months after a hearing was held, and the matter was put under litigation. In which, evidence was brought out that John Konkus, The Deputy Associate Administrator of Public Affairs, said over the phone to the Journal, “Well, everybody knows the american public doesn't trust the press, and he saw no reason for us to fund The Bay Journal.”

This statement Konkus made sounded like a political action rather than an unbiased contract action based on fiscal and community popularity ratings. Pruitt did not denounce the statement made by Konkus on behalf of the EPA. Unfortunately for Pruitt, the EPA is intended to act as an independent government entity and doing what needs to be done to positively affect the environment, rather than be influenced by political beliefs and polarizing funding to an organization (or no organization) supported by the administration present at that time.

After having read this quote in the hearing and being asked if this was the EPA’s official reasoning behind pulling the funding, Pruitt would not say any straightforward facts or definitive explanations as to why the funding was cut at all. Feeling the pressure of the communities surrounding the Chesapeake Bay as well as political pressure, Pruitt did restore funding the Chesapeake Bay Journal due to their being no real reason to cut their funding in the first place.

I am no fan of the unconventional history Pruitt has with the EPA, and much of his career before being appointed as the head of the EPA by the Trump administration consisted of lawsuits that were in favor of deregulating environmental impact policy and restrictions of various industries. One could almost say that he was against any environmental policy that actually protects the environment.

Pruitt was already under investigation allowing a clipping service called Definers Public Affairs, to search through EPA staffer’s and contract workers backgrounds to find out what people were supportive of the Trump administration within the EPA and organizations with relations to it. Pruitt denies all of this.

One of the organizations that was vocal about environmental issues the current administration has not acknowledged, was the Chesapeake Bay Journal. Specifically with the subjects of climate change as well as pointing out flaws in big industries like the offshore drilling activity and water quality regulations.

The Trump administration has proven once again to have a big business first and politics second mindset, creating a fairly good understanding of why the Journal’s funding was cut. They opposed the views of Trump and his appointees, and as a result, they were subject to repercussions of the power that Trump and Pruitt hold.

Allowing this kind of blatant absolute power mindset to influence what news, programs and lawful activism is allowed proves yet again that the Trump administration does not believe freedom of speech applies to scrutiny against them or their policies.

As American citizens, we cannot allow this kind of aggression to go unnoticed; because, it directly affects our rights to exercise the First Amendment, expressing our concerns about what we wish, even when it is against our leaders. Pruitt was attempting to silence his opposition by pulling their funding and limiting the amount of information that opposed his agenda for the EPA.

While unsuccessful, he still had made an attempt at eliminating a potential source that does not fit his vision for what information should be circulating with his own, currently under the protection of the EPA. Support for these small organizations that are dedicated to helping the environment are essential, because they will be under a good deal of scrutiny by the EPA and the Trump administration due to their opposition of them on an environmentalist level. If we are not vigilant, then the administration could do again what they attempted with the Chesapeake Bay Journal.

Cover Image Credit: Flickr

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An Open Letter To Democrats From A Millennial Republican

Why being a Republican doesn't mean I'm inhuman.

Dear Democrats,

I have a few things to say to you — all of you.

You probably don't know me. But you think you do. Because I am a Republican.

Gasp. Shock. Horror. The usual. I know it all. I hear it every time I come out of the conservative closet here at my liberal arts university.

SEE ALSO: What I Mean When I Say I'm A Young Republican

“You're a Republican?" people ask, saying the word in the same tone that Draco Malfoy says “Mudblood."

I know that not all Democrats feel about Republicans this way. Honestly, I can't even say for certain that most of them do. But in my experience, saying you're a Republican on a liberal college campus has the same effect as telling someone you're a child molester.

You see, in this day and age, with leaders of the Republican Party standing up and spouting unfortunately ridiculous phrases like “build a wall," and standing next to Kim Davis in Kentucky after her release, we Republicans are given an extreme stereotype. If you're a Republican, you're a bigot. You don't believe in marriage equality. You don't believe in racial equality. You don't believe in a woman's right to choose. You're extremely religious and want to impose it on everyone else.

Unfortunately, stereotypes are rooted in truth. There are some people out there who really do think these things and feel this way. And it makes me mad. The far right is so far right that they make the rest of us look bad. They make sure we aren't heard. Plenty of us are fed up with their theatrics and extremism.

For those of us brave enough to wear the title “Republican" in this day and age, as millennials, it's different. Many of us don't agree with these brash ideas. I'd even go as far as to say that most of us don't feel this way.

For me personally, being a Republican doesn't even mean that I automatically vote red.

When people ask me to describe my political views, I usually put it pretty simply. “Conservative, but with liberal social views."

“Oh," they say, “so you're a libertarian."

“Sure," I say. But that's the thing. I'm not really a libertarian.

Here's what I believe:

I believe in marriage equality. I believe in feminism. I believe in racial equality. I don't want to defund Planned Parenthood. I believe in birth control. I believe in a woman's right to choose. I believe in welfare. I believe more funds should be allocated to the public school system.

Then what's the problem? Obviously, I'm a Democrat then, right?

Wrong. Because I have other beliefs too.

Yes, I believe in the right to choose — but I'd always hope that unless a pregnancy would result in the bodily harm of the woman, that she would choose life. I believe in welfare, but I also believe that our current system is broken — there are people who don't need it receiving it, and others who need it that cannot access it.

I believe in capitalism. I believe in the right to keep and bear arms, because I believe we have a people crisis on our hands, not a gun crisis. Contrary to popular opinion, I do believe in science. I don't believe in charter schools. I believe in privatizing as many things as possible. I don't believe in Obamacare.

Obviously, there are other topics on the table. But, generally speaking, these are the types of things we millennial Republicans get flack for. And while it is OK to disagree on political beliefs, and even healthy, it is NOT OK to make snap judgments about me as a person. Identifying as a Republican does not mean I am the same as Donald Trump.

Just because I am a Republican, does not mean you know everything about me. That does not give you the right to make assumptions about who I am as a person. It is not OK for you to group me with my stereotype or condemn me for what I feel and believe. And for a party that prides itself on being so open-minded, it shocks me that many of you would be so judgmental.

So I ask you to please, please, please reexamine how you view Republicans. Chances are, you're missing some extremely important details. If you only hang out with people who belong to your own party, chances are you're missing out on great people. Because, despite what everyone believes, we are not our stereotype.


A millennial Republican

Cover Image Credit: NEWSWORK.ORG

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Why The Idea Of 'No Politics At The Dinner Table' Takes Place And Why We Should Avoid It

When did having a dialogue become so rare?


Why has the art of civilized debate and conversation become unheard of in daily life? Why is it considered impolite to talk politics with coworkers and friends? Expressing ideas and discussing different opinions should not be looked down upon.

I have a few ideas as to why this is our current societal norm.

1. Politics is personal.

Your politics can reveal a lot about who you are. Expressing these (sometimes controversial) opinions may put you in a vulnerable position. It is possible for people to draw unfair conclusions from one viewpoint you hold. This fosters a fear of judgment when it comes to our political beliefs.

Regardless of where you lie on the spectrum of political belief, there is a world of assumption that goes along with any opinion. People have a growing concern that others won't hear them out based on one belief.

As if a single opinion could tell you all that you should know about someone. Do your political opinions reflect who you are as a person? Does it reflect your hobbies? Your past?

The question becomes "are your politics indicative enough of who you are as a person to warrant a complete judgment?"

Personally, I do not think you would even scratch the surface of who I am just from knowing my political identification.

2. People are impolite.

The politics themselves are not impolite. But many people who wield passionate, political opinion act impolite and rude when it comes to those who disagree.

The avoidance of this topic among friends, family, acquaintances and just in general, is out of a desire to 'keep the peace'. Many people have friends who disagree with them and even family who disagree with them. We justify our silence out of a desire to avoid unpleasant situations.

I will offer this: It might even be better to argue with the ones you love and care about, because they already know who you are aside from your politics, and they love you unconditionally (or at least I would hope).

We should be having these unpleasant conversations. And you know what? They don't even need to be unpleasant! Shouldn't we be capable of debating in a civilized manner? Can't we find common ground?

I attribute the loss of political conversation in daily life to these factors. 'Keeping the peace' isn't an excuse. We should be discussing our opinions constantly and we should be discussing them with those who think differently.

Instead of discouraging political conversation, we should be encouraging kindness and understanding. That's how we will avoid the unpleasantness that these conversations sometimes bring.

By avoiding them altogether, we are doing our youth a disservice because they are not being exposed to government, law, and politics, and they are not learning to deal with people and ideas that they don't agree with.

Next Thanksgiving, talk politics at the table.

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