When it comes to politics, what is important to know about me is simple: I am a citizen of the United States of America. As such, I have certain rights, among them Freedom of Speech. Those words represent an incredibly unique concept that any American citizen has seen or heard countless times. Having a fear that I can no longer rely on this basic American principle to protect me should I say something against my government is the greatest threat to my wellbeing that I have ever felt as a proud member of the American society.
Even during the war in Vietnam I never sensed this fear to speak up despite the fact that I never expressed my opinion publicly or joined any formal anti-war initiative. Nevertheless, I was solidly against the war and stood a good chance of being sent off to fight it.
Protesting one’s government today is not as simple as burning a draft card, holding up signs and joining protest marches to Washington. Despite the conflict with the leadership of our country back in the 1960’s, I never lost trust in the principle of Freedom of Speech and making the assumption that if I spoke out I would suffer no consequences. I do not feel that way today. I have questions.
What is different today? I am not quite sure, but I suspect it has to do with the one aspect that has become part of the American culture that dictates winning is everything. We do no like to lose. Losing is shameful and, according to some, is like death. Hence, people are more emboldened, more arrogant and less likely to compromise. If you think I exaggerate, I suggest you review the performance of the United States Congress this past decade…better yet, review the that same performance but for just the past ten months.
So what is it exactly that I fear? I fear harassment. This could be as simple as neighbors and friends no longer talking to me because I do not agree with them, to a more sophisticated response such as the government giving me grief over my annual tax return or regulators suddenly enforcing every petty mandate relative to my home or car. Yes, I know I sound a bit paranoid—no, a good bit paranoid—but this is how these kinds of situations have progressed in the past in other places.
So really, what is all this about? Well, it’s about one individual American citizen exercising his right to Freedom of Speech in hopes that it will stimulate others who share the same opinion to do likewise. I have no money to support a movement; I have no base organization to mount a campaign; and because of my age and health I lack the stamina that it takes to cause change. But change is what must happen. Our colonial forefathers understood the risk when they first took it. They also understood that even though they achieved their goal, their descendants may well have to fight the battle again.
“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants…it is its natural manure.” Thomas Jefferson
There’s a campaign on national television right now that I am sure many of you have seen. It features a soft-spoken individual American citizen named Tom Steyer (right). He has mounted a drive to have President Trump impeached, declaring him “a clear and present danger who’s mentally unstable and armed with nuclear weapons.” Being a very wealthy man and one who heads up a non-profit climate-change organization known as NextGen America, Steyer has been politically active for many years. He had donated significant dollars to the Democrats and earned a solid position on the Republicans’ enemies list. I have signed in, supporting Mr. Steyer’s campaign. If you agree with his opinion, I encourage you to do the same. Google Tom Steyer to learn more.
As a long-registered independent, I have never participated in a political endeavor other than voting regularly. President Trump has changed that and, knowing how passionate his followers are, I am sure I will be criticized. So be it. I’ve watched enough news, seen enough evidence and felt—for the first time—embarrassed for my country, that I support Mr. Steyer’s efforts to oust Donald Trump.
I am but one formerly non-participating political activist who now exercises his right to free speech. Based upon the brave people who established this country and the principles for which it stands, I not only have that right, but I also have the obligation to exercise it.
I am one voice now speaking out. Not much. But if you become two, then someone else becomes three, and so it begins: the process by which the citizens of the United States of America make the decisions that guide their destiny, the by and for the people, if you will. That process is called democracy and we are each responsible to see that it continues and that those who disrupt it are quickly stopped.