While it may be a little late to be writing this letter, because the events I’ll discuss are now a few days past, I’ve been thinking about the best way to put it in words since. Though I did not vote for you on November 8, and while I disagree with a number of your policies and am concerned over your nominations for your Cabinet, I have tried to keep an open mind. I have tried to stay optimistic about your presidency, attempting to put aside all of the rhetoric, finger pointing and behavior that took place over the rollercoaster ride that was the campaign trail. I have tried to listen to you and believe in what you are saying, all in efforts to envision a better future for America and all its people.
However, what I’ve struggled with the most is your constant demand for apologies, retractions and threats to sue media organizations. As a journalism student, and most importantly a proud American citizen, I treasure our Constitution, in particular the First Amendment. It is paramount to our democracy. If we cannot openly voice our opinions, especially directed towards our democratically elected officials, we will be oppressed and silenced. It will be easy for our leaders to censor us whenever something they don’t like is said, and that’s dangerous.
When Brandon Victor Dixon stood on the stage and asked Vice President-elect Mike Pence to give the cast just a few more minutes of his time to deliver a passionate speech about equality “for all of us,” Mr. Dixon portrayed the very essence of the First Amendment and how great it truly is. We live in a country where we can directly address our leaders, even those of the highest power, freely. Mr. Dixon delivered his speech in a peaceful and respectful manner, never name-calling or offending Mr. Pence. Mr. Dixon expressed his concern over the rights and protections of individuals that Mr. Dixon believes will not be protected under a Trump/Pence administration – definitely not something that would require an apology. Maybe, in place of a series of angry and demanding Tweets, you could tell the American people that you heard and understood Mr. Dixon’s remarks and will do your best to protect all Americans?Another concern, perhaps just as important as the previously mentioned, is the topic of the burning of an American flag. You said in a Tweet, “Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag – if they do, there must be consequences – perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!” It seems as though, Mr. President-elect, you are slowly trying to take away our right to freedom of expression. It seems as though when you don’t agree with a group of people, individual journalist or idea, your first step is to ban it, as opposed to speaking about finding a solution. The Supreme Court declared flag burning as symbolic speech, thus protected by the First Amendment, in the 1989 Texas v. Johnson ruling. So to threaten to strip an individual of his or her citizenship because of it makes me think of a dictatorship where the government decides every aspect of what is “right” and “wrong.” I’m sorry, sir, but that isn’t up to you to decide. Your job is to uphold the Constitution. It’s a promise you’ll make on January 20. Protect our rights as free American citizens – whether you agree or not.