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Freedom of the press is all about me.

1 Heart it! Bethany Eanes 61
August 17, 2018
Bethany Eanes
1 Heart it! 61

I wanted this piece to blow you away. All day, I’ve been searching for that thesis. I’ve been staring at the ocean and sipping various warm drinks hoping the line will come to me and you will say, “Damn! She nailed it!”

Then I realized something my momma told me often: this just isn’t about me.

Wanting to write something unique, clever, crafted or provoking was my way of feeding the ego that often drives me to write. And, that puts me directly in the same boat of President Trump, who regularly allows his ego to drive him to (fill in the blank). Didn’t his momma tell him? This just isn’t about him.

This is about the starving masses in Venezuela who can be punished with 40 years in prison for insulting the government. This is about the disappearances of Azerbaijanian citizens, or the fact they may be sentenced to two years corrective labor for insulting the elected officials. In Bahrain, that punishment goes up to a potential seven years imprisonment. In Iran, 74 lashes is the punishment for insulting the president.  In Russia, freedom of the press is expressly granted, yet journalists are repeatedly jailed, websites blocked, and information about war casualties kept under wraps.

This isn’t about you, President Trump.

When you lean your weight behind claims that legitimate reporting is fake, when you refuse to take questions at White House press conferences, and when you make an issue of global civil rights an ego battle, you give the green light to every dictator in the world to do the same.

According to Freedom House, an organization devoted to the expansion of freedom of the press worldwide, “Only 13 percent of the world’s population enjoys a Free press—that is, where coverage of political news is robust, the safety of journalists is guaranteed, state intrusion in media affairs is minimal, and the press is not subject to onerous legal or economic pressures.”

More concerning, though, is that Freedom House ranked freedom of the press as hitting its lowest point in over a decade. Increasingly, as populism and nationalism once again stain our global consciousness, leaders are claiming the dominant percentage of votes by owning and curating a dominant voice. And, the United States has suddenly hit the radar as a country where freedom of the press is declining. Once an international model for healthy dialogue, our nation is setting a threatening standard.

In the sixth grade, my girlfriends and I stuck signs of protest around the gymnasium and refused to participate in class. We were mad that the boys played different games than we did, and we were madder still that they received different equipment. We were called to the Principals office, and we were reprimanded disrespecting our teachers.

So, this is a little about me.

This is about my right to assemble, my right to speak, and my right to write. I had to go all the way back to sixth grade to recall a time I was silenced. I’m a middle-class, white, college-educated, politically-centric person. I’m in.

Some day, I may no longer me the majority. Some day, my voice may no longer dominate. Some day, I may rely on the wisdom, compassion, and inclusion of the majority; more importantly, I will rely on my constitutionally guaranteed rights. By fighting to protect those rights for dissenters today, I fight to protect my right to dissent in the future.

Okay, yea, this is a lot about me. President Trump, this is about you, too.

This is about your kids and their kids and the world you are creating for them. It is a world where, no matter how hard you fight and how long you hold it off, they simply won’t be as dominant or – to steal your word for it, “great” – as they are today.

And this is about whether the President of the United States of America, whoever that person may be in the future, is going to give your progeny the simple respect they not only deserve but are legally guaranteed.

Mr. President, if you can’t find it important to defend the voices of today’s voiceless, then find it important to defend the voices of tomorrow’s voiceless. Because tomorrow’s voiceless could be you.

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1 Heart it! Bethany Eanes 61
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