(It’s been a while since I’ve added commentary to these regular prompts, but this week’s unprecedented political actions by a certain president and/or his administration have elicited a visceral response that, as a writer, I must write about. So that’s your heads-up: some might consider what follows a rant, but it’s really more of a call to action. I apologize in advance if it’s a little disjointed.)
The First Amendment is not an accident. My deeply held conviction, supported with a lot of evidence, is what might do this country in to where we cease to exist as a vital democracy, as a Constitutional democracy, is not terrorism or a weak economy but what will do us in is a secret government.
This is hard to write. My thoughts and distress are swirling so swiftly in my brain it’s hard to corral them into some semblance of written sense.
Never in my lifetime did I think I would see such blatant and rapid censorship coming from the highest office in the country. I’m not naïve – I know censorship exists. I’ve experienced it myself in comparatively small ways. But to watch as at least one, if not more, instance appears every day frightens me.
Governmental Websites have been shut down – so far the National Parks Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the U. S. Department of Agriculture have been shuttered – their employees were given gag orders, and the White House comments phone line has been turned off. According to Bipartisan Report, there is a ‘blackout on federal workers’ outgoing communications from the EPA and USDA to the public.’ I wonder which one(s) will be next?
(Now I have no way of knowing if calling the White House to make comments or requests ever did any good – I called a month or so ago about something, and have called a time or two before that – but even if the public’s calls didn’t reach the president, or whoever was supposed to receive our comments, we still had that opportunity to voice our opinions and concerns and, sometimes, our thanks. The phone line to the White House was always open.)
As distressed as I am, I’m not surprised. We could see this coming months ago, a year or more ago, if we were paying attention. This week a senior advisor to the present occupant of the Oval Office has made it clear that he despises the media. The day after the Inauguration, the White House press secretary was sent out to berate the press for falsifying attendance numbers for the attending ceremony. Another advisor has proclaimed that ‘alternative facts’ is, apparently, the MO from which the White House will operate.
Thankfully, though, some of the scientists who had been silenced decided to go rogue. The National Parks Service, the EPA, and the USDA all have employees who set up alternative Twitter accounts after the respective official accounts were terminated because of the scientific facts that were posted. (I don’t understand how a Twitter account can be closed by someone other than the person who set it up, but there it is.) At least two of the alternative Twitter accounts were also shut down by the White House, but one remains: @AltNatParkSer. So far. It was still there an hour ago anyway.
While all this was in process, I decided I had to speak up, too. Since I know the current resident of the Oval Office is a Twitter addict, I decided to address him directly. What did I have to lose? Well, other than my free speech and a free press …
So I crafted three tweets in quick succession to @realDonaldTrump with three hashtags: #nocensorship, #nogagorders, and#Protect1stAmendment.
Freedom of expression is central to our civic life in the United States. Along with freedom of assembly and freedom of worship, free speech and a free press are paramount, almost sacred rights upon which we rely and depend. Writers and artists know this. Anyone who has been censored – or silenced in any way – knows this. This is why I appended the hashtags I did to my tweet of a few days ago. I also did, I confess, to see if I might get a response. Nothing yet. And so far my Twitter account is still active. At least it was an hour or so ago.
See what I mean? I hate that I’m thinking such things, having to pay attention to things like that. In this country!
I find it interesting that sales of George Orwell’s 1984 have skyrocketed since that White House advisor verified that ‘alternative facts’ are to be expected. I’m glad that people are now, finally, reading up on groupspeak and groupthink and Big Brother and all that, but I wish they had done that years ago. More than that, I wish they had paid attention in their high school history classes – and if they weren’t taught about how Nazi Germany rose to power, how insidiously it began, then that says something just as terrible about our education system, but that’s another rant for another time. Or maybe they were and they just didn’t pay attention.
Well, it’s time to pay attention now, which is why I’m glad 1984 is flying off the shelves. Hopefully that means people are beginning to take notice. If so, they need to add Animal Farm to their reading list, too, among many others.
I’m almost through with this too-long and disjointed missive, but I have two things to ask before I finish. First, as stressful as it may be, please stay informed. I know it’s hard to find reports and news sites that are as true as is possible nowadays, but they’re out there. We need to be aware of what’s going on as close to real-time as possible.
Second, please join me – and other writers and artists (and now scientists!) – in resisting these flagrant attacks on our civil rights. Yes, there are and will be attacks on and attempts to undermine or threaten our rights to health care and education and other things we’ve perhaps taken too much for granted, but if we face blocked phone lines, a censored press and misrepresented facts, and corrupt, narcissistic, egomaniacal politicians from the White House, we can’t make any progress with anything else.
So feel free to join me at @GenieWrites2 on Twitter for #Protect1stAmendment, #nocensorship, and #nogagorders. Or create your own hashtags and invite me to join you. I’ll be there in a heartbeat! Because I believe that’s what’s at stake: our very heart as a country and as a people.
Thank you, and bless you.