Okay, I know I’ve made a lot of silly jabs at Donald Trump, but one thing I have been, and will continue to be serious about, is the alarming stance he has on our First Amendment rights.
For generations, politicians have dangled the Second Amendment in front of us while on their stump, knowing full well how passionate Americans can be about their ability to protect themselves. But the First Amendment rarely gets trotted out because, as civil rights go, it’s widely accepted. So much so that most people take it for granted.
From the beginning of his campaign Trump has been cultivating a distrust for the media among his supporters. At first he did so under the guise that he was exposing only the dishonest media. As the campaign went on he began to corral the reporters into roped off areas like sideshow freaks, singling them out to his supporters so they could be collectively booed and harassed for informing the American public. The media, he repeatedly stated, were the real enemy.
Amazingly, the media responded by giving him unlimited coverage for his campaign events! Rather than treating him like a presidential candidate, they saw him as a reality TV star. Their Pavlovian response was to give us More! More! More! Every insensitive comment, all of the vitriol, anything that wasn’t scripted and canned, was broadcast far and wide. All Trump! All the time! Quite simply, the media got played.
And now here we are… Donald Trump is preparing to become the 45th President of the United States. Much to everyone’s chagrin, he is still not acting in a traditional manner. For example, instead of organizing his first press conference Mr. Trump recently invited top media executives, reporters, and news anchors to an off the record meeting. Yes, off the record!
Think about this for a minute…
What could he possibly say two weeks after the election that needs to be kept off the record? He had only been the President-Elect for less than a month! What needed to be kept from his adoring public?!
Well, it turns out that the whole point of this meeting was so he could bawl them out for reporting unflattering things about him. That, and threatening to cut off their access to his White House if they don’t start being more fair and balanced (“fair and balanced” is now an interchangeable term for “unwavering support despite all evidence to the contrary”). In other words, his whole purpose was to say “there’s a new sheriff in town” and everyone should be prepared to play by his rules… or else.
Let’s stop for a minute and look at this – Donald Trump stood there, day after day during the campaign and openly said that Hillary Clinton was planning on abolishing the Second Amendment. There was no evidence or record of any such statement from her, but he said it anyway. All the while he was doing so he was also openly proclaiming his disdain for the media, for free speech, for the religions he did not approve of, for general dissent or protest, for unflattering commentary, or even for the rights of the press to report what they saw as relevant, even if Donald Trump didn’t like it.
Now I suppose his biggest supporters love this because they see it as him telling it like it is. But anyone who doesn’t see the huge ramifications of this act likely has never stopped to really examine where our freedom comes from. So let’s put aside our love for guns, guns, and more guns, and take a minute to look at the Amendment that our country saw fit to put before our right to bear arms.
The freedoms afforded to the press to distribute information and news, the ability of the public to voice their opinions of the government openly, the capability to peaceably assemble and protest our public servants, or even the citizen’s right to rectify the perceived wrongs they may have with Washington, these are our base rights. Are they more important than the right to bear arms, though?
Simply put, the First Amendment to the Constitution is the canary in the coal mine. Without the free flow of news and information we would not know if Obama was actually coming for our guns, or if those Facebook memes that said so were sent around by the gun lobby to boost sales among a gullible populace.
Without the free flow of news and information, we wouldn’t know that people had been murdered in Mississippi for trying to help minorities register to vote.
Without the free flow of news and information, we wouldn’t know that our President had once been so paranoid that he authorized his minions to break into the DNC offices at the Watergate Hotel, resulting in his resignation because a newspaper was able to report on it.
Without the free flow of news and information, we wouldn’t know that the government had a clandestine operation for gathering data off of the phones of its citizens.
And of course, without the free flow of news and information, we wouldn’t have been played by FBI Director James Comey, who made a non-specific announcement as payback to the Clinton machine for years of political wangling, which helped to elevate a true demagogue as President of the United States.
Without the free flow of news and information, we wouldn’t know when, or if, we needed to defend ourselves, or from whom.
One thing is for certain, if we hope to keep our freedoms under His Majesty, The Baby, then we will need to exercise our First Amendment rights openly and often, and with as many people as possible. Because if there is one thing we can learn from Mahatma Gandhi, it is that if enough of us are standing up they can’t arrest and stop all of us. If we overwhelm their ability to control and quash our dissent then we may continue to have a system of government that is by the people and for the people. If we do not, then we will continue our descent toward a two-classed society, that of the a few ‘haves’ and then a whole bunch of ‘have-nots’.