Some Random Thoughts on America–the Angry, the Miserable, the Suicidal

We hear a lot today about fake news in America. But what about “fake journalists?”

Watch television, cable, or surf the Internet and we see a profusion of talking heads, political pundits, academics, bloggers, and news aggregators out there masquerading as journalists.

Unfortunately, too many people can’t tell the difference between skilled professional journalists and the thousands of journalist “wannabes.”

As a result, confusion reigns.

Who can the public believe in a nation where opinion and the “narrative” masquerade as unbiased and accurate news—an unpardonable journalistic violation that we see more and more often today on network and cable news reports?

Here’s a hint. Whenever you hear an individual who claims to be a journalist say with a straight face that free speech needs to be curbed, that should be the signal for you to switch channels or head for another website.

As a former journalist, freedom of speech and the First Amendment are subjects that I and other authentic journalists feel strongly about—especially when I hear people who claim to be journalists insist that there should be some restrictions on speech. To hear a journalist say something like that is akin to a minister or priest revealing that he or she no longer believes in God.

But the wretched world of journalism, with its fake news and counterfeit journalists, is only a symptom of a nation in moral and ethical decline. We are now a nation that can no longer talk to itself without embarking on a paroxysm of self-flagellation that borders on suicide.

When I left active journalism and became a professor and dean at the University of Illinois, I witnessed disturbing restrictions of free speech on campus in the name of inclusiveness and political correctness. In an ill-advised effort to coddle the habitually offended, “safe spaces” were created where the constantly aggrieved could retreat when they heard a comment they didn’t like or agree with.

In my humble opinion, this is NOT the role of a university. If anything, a university should be a place where ALL ideas can be heard, analyzed, and debated. It should not be a place that censors thought and free expression. Ironically, that’s exactly why the concept of tenure was created. Tenure guaranteed that professors who stated ideas or theories that administrators disagreed with could not be sacked for expressing those ideas and theories.

Sadly, the objective of tenure today has less to do with academic freedom and much more to do with unassailable job security. Too many professors today refuse to allow energetic classroom discussion of ideas they disagree with—a paradoxical twist to the raison d’être of tenure.

Incessant attacks on the Bill of Rights in general and the First & Second Amendments, in particular, should concern every American. These are bedrock freedoms that are the backbone of our Constitution.

Americans tend to take these rights for granted and I fear that only when they have lost them because of a misguided obsession with uniformity of accepted political and social thought will they fully understand the depth of their loss. Of course, then it will be too late.

America will have then become a nation that embraces the failed policies of lock-step socialism, rather than a democratic republic that cherishes personal freedom, free enterprise, and individualism. It is disconcerting for me—a former Democrat—to watch the party I grew up with shift so far to the left that now even mainstream Democrats are calling for America to embrace socialism.

I refused to become a “Social Democrat” and as a result, I vamoosed from that party a couple of decades ago.

Socialism is a failed ideology. It strips people of incentive with its “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need” philosophy. It gives the government too much control over the lives of its citizens. If you want to live in George Orwell’s “1984” or Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World,” then, by all means, embrace socialism. I hope I’m not around to witness the destruction of the country I love and that I served as a soldier.

Today, in America, many people are too quick to condemn opinions and attitudes they disagree with as “hate speech.” In fact, the American Civil Liberties Union says there is no such thing as hate speech—there is only free speech. I don’t always agree with the ACLU, but in this instance, they are correct. The remedy for dealing with so-called hate speech is more free speech. Yet, all we hear today in America is the vicious vilification of those who disagree with us.

Unfounded allegations of racism, bigotry, hate speech, etc. have taken the place of rational discourse and dialog. The result is a nation in which reasonable and cogent debate on such issues as free speech, gun control, illegal immigration, racial equality, border security, etc. is thwarted by biased and impenetrable minds that are bolted shut.

I hate to sound so pessimistic but given the state of intolerance and ill-advised identity politics that is embracing and suffocating our nation today, I am not optimistic about the future. We are currently gripped in the most ominous cycle of malicious personal attacks and malevolent political destruction I have ever seen.

Some call it “cancel culture.” I call it “tyranny and despotism.” I have seen both in my travels during a 28-year-long career as a foreign correspondent. I have visited political prisoners in former and current dictatorships. I have seen thousands of protestors murdered in Communist China for daring to oppose the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

And in the United States, I have heard Senators and members of the House of Representatives refer to those who oppose the ruling Democrat Party as insurrectionists, domestic terrorists, and white supremacists. Some politicians have even called for putting Republicans into “re-education camps” and taking away their children so they can be indoctrinated with “correct political thought.”

Thank God, we have not yet reached the point where political opponents are jailed indefinitely for their political and social beliefs. Or have we?

As I recall after six months several hundred people are still languishing in various prisons for breaking and entering the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6, 2021–and most have yet to be charged or prosecuted.

How can this happen in the United States? You only have to look back to 2006 to see how. In the final hours before adjourning in 2006, Congress passed and the president signed the Military Commissions Act (MCA). In doing so they cast aside the Constitution and the principle of habeas corpus, which protects against unlawful and indefinite imprisonment.

Essentially, the MCA completely eliminates the constitutional due process right of habeas corpus for detainees at Guantánamo Bay and elsewhere–including those federal facilities where many of the January 6 protestors are being held. It allows our government to continue to hold hundreds of prisoners for more than five years without charges, with no end in sight.

Does this sound like the America where you are innocent until proven guilty and where you are entitled to a fair and speedy trial?

Our nation’s founders considered habeas corpus essential to our basic rights and enshrined it in the Constitution. Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution states, “The privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.”

Calling what happened on January 6 in the U.S. Capitol a “rebellion” is a stretch. I would call the rioting, looting, burning, and attacking of government buildings last summer in cities like Minneapolis, Seattle, New York, and Portland more of a rebellion than the unarmed protestors who unlawfully entered the Capitol Building.

In all cases, you had mobs of angry people convinced they had a right to do what they did. Why then, did the full force of American law come down only on those who invaded the Capitol and not those who held entire city blocks in Seattle and Portland hostage? Why aren’t members of Black Lives Matter and Antifa sitting behind bars?

Because, like the “brown shirts” of Nazi Germany in the 1920s and 1930s, BLM and Antifa are the street fighters of the Democrat Party. They attack and beat political opponents without legal consequence, just as the brown-shirted “Sturmabteilung” (S.A.) did in Nazi Germany.

We are living in an era of extreme political polarization, where your social and political beliefs can be a reason for the termination from a job, for losing friends, and even being expelled from your own family.

Whatever happened to “we can agree to disagree” while we examine one another’s arguments? Instead, those on the other side of an argument are branded bigots, racists, sexists, fanatics, zealots, jingoists, and even criminals.

When you have elected officials calling for the incarceration and even the assassination of political opponents, as a Democrat state senator from Missouri did recently, it tells me our tradition of a loyal opposition is in grave danger.

When we as Americans refuse to listen to opposing ideas or views, I fear our parochialism and narrow-mindedness will drive us down the slippery slope toward annihilation and that will herald the end of one of human-kinds most noble experiments in self-governance and individual freedom.

At that point, the torch America’s iconic Statue of Liberty has held in her right hand since 1886 will be extinguished and the world will have re-entered a new Dark Age.

When that happens, God help us all.

Of course, given our nation’s rampant secularism and its government-approved rejection of the sanctity of life, I suspect pleas for God’s help will go unheeded.

After all, as the Bible says: You shall reap what you sow.

 

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