Last week I read a great article from the New York Times by Jim Rutenberg headlined "Independent Press Is Under Siege as Freedom Rings." Reading it around the Fourth of July, I remembered the value of our First Amendment and its true meanings.
Here are a few things that bother me: people who yell ignorant, racist, homophobic, or misogynistic slurs and think that they get a free pass because of "free speech." Free speech does not encourage a shut-down of everyone whose beliefs do not align with yours. And this behavior is certainly not something that should be encouraged by others (let alone our president.)
What should be encouraged is a civil and rational discussion of viewpoints, especially opposing ones, that end in a better understanding of each other. Realizing that there cannot always be a compromise, and realizing that neither party's mind will be changed by these discussions, is crucial. But if we can understand each other better, at least we are moving forward.
Here's where the free press comes in: if our president slams every news outlet which does not praise him to the ground (yes, I am referencing the aggressive tweet towards CNN) how can we even begin to engage in this two-way discussion?
And why is it that the people who yell "free speech" when they want to insult someone are the same people who yell "fake news" when a journalist calls our president out on his wrongdoings?
If you have free speech, then so do I. I deserve just as much opportunity to express my opinions against President Trump as someone who agrees with him. That is what free speech means. It runs both ways. We have left-wing news outlets, and right-wing news outlets, and independent news outlets. We don't just pick one. That isn't free press; it's censorship.
I reserve the rights to make my own decisions, have my own opinions, and maintain self-respect. None of that will include being silenced out of fear. Just as other people will have their say, I will also have mine.
For me, protecting the freedom of the press is important because it means protecting my ability to say what I want to say, write what I want to write, and be who I want to be without fear. President Trump will not get a "free pass" on attacking journalists for doing their jobs.
The New York Times reported Courtney Radsch, advocacy director for the Committee to Protect Journalists, stating, "Targeting individual journalists or media outlets, on- or off-line, creates a chilling effect and fosters an environment where further harassment, or even physical attack, is deemed acceptable." I could not have said this any better myself, and I commend Ms. Radsch for all her work.
To cower in fear of a loud-mouthed, ignorant figurehead is to disrespect myself. To feel as if I have to hide my opinions is to disrespect myself. To think that I cannot stand up to a disrespectful man because he is the president is to disrespect myself.
And I will not disrespect myself.