Tag Archives: freedom of speech

Happy Fourth of July!

United States Declaration of Independence.

Photo from Flickr user Lou Gold

Happy Fourth of July! I hope all of my American readers enjoy a safe and happy holiday! (And those who don’t get the day off and/or aren’t celebrating, have a wonderful Tuesday!)

As we celebrate United States independence, I want to acknowledge the large number of people living in the United States who did not win freedom following the American Revolution, and who are still today being oppressed by mass incarceration, voter suppression, human trafficking, and other forms of slavery. We have come a long way, but we still have a long way to go.

I’ve thought a lot about what being an American citizen means to me, especially in light of the last several months. I grew up in a very diverse neighborhood — I played basketball and tag with Indian-American kids, Chinese-American kids, Japanese-American kids, kids whose parents had moved north from Puerto Rico. My dogs used to get in barking contests with the dogs owned by the African-American family whose backyard connected with ours. I babysat kids whose two moms had immigrated from the Czech Republic. But I never once considered any of these people “not American,” even when some of the families’ grandparents struggled to speak English. They were my neighbors, and my friends. To see my friends and neighbors who are Muslims, or who came (or want to come) from Middle Eastern countries — particularly Syria, Libya, Yemen, Iran, Somalia, and Sudan — discriminated against reminds me daily how far we have to go still. I want to live in a neighborhood — in a country — where everyone who wants to live there and isn’t harming anyone else is free to do so. The America of my dreams welcomes and respects new people, new cultures, and new ideas — and is stronger because of it.

The America of my dreams is also one where a free press is not only welcomed but celebrated.​ In a world where facts that people don’t agree with are decried as “fake news” (I’ll save my distaste for that phrase for another time), and differences of opinion are quickly reduced to character attacks by online trolls, I think free speech and a free press are more important now than ever. Our Constitution came with these freedoms built in, because its authors remembered firsthand how forced silence and tyranny go hand in hand.

I don’t often get political here, but what better time to reflect on politics than on the anniversary of our country’s founding? I’ll leave you all with a quote from the Declaration of Independence, signed 241 years ago today:

“But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.”

If the federal government continues to rule using ignorance and fear to deny rights and oppress society’s most vulnerable, our country’s founders not only grant us permission but encourage us to find a better way forward. I want to live in a country governed by hope rather than fear, knowledge rather than ignorance, freedom of speech and thought and press rather than an oppressive state media. As a Jewish woman who has studied the rise of Hitler and the Nazi Party, I am deeply troubled by today’s political climate, but also profoundly encouraged by the voices of the resistance.

Happy Fourth of July, everyone! As always, I welcome civil discussion in the comments.