Free speech. It is the bedrock of our democracy. It is what sets us apart from most other nations in the world. It is also what has helped create a chasm so wide between ideologies that our Union is threatened. Not since the civil rights movement has our nation been so divided, so hateful and mean-spirited.
During that period the media held up a mirror to America. What she saw shamed her. That shame led to action that created a new progressive era of inclusiveness; a time when many leaders strived to level the playing field for blacks and others who had not only been excluded from the American dream, but nearly decimated by it.
Because of the noble efforts of the media to live up to its high calling as the 4th Estate of American democracy, it was lauded and held in even higher esteem. Over the years it seems that once vaunted profession descended to a place ruled by ratings and advertising dollars; giving little thought to the need to guard the doors of our democracy. The meteoric fall of the mainstream media coupled with white backlash over civil rights concessions have left America vulnerable to the ravings of fringe elements that blame “otherness” for all of America’s ills.
Fox News, Donald Trump and others like them crept inside that open door to pimp the First Amendment and the values upon which it was based. The mainstream media, like a deer caught in headlights, failed to see that danger barreling down upon both it, and our nation until it was too late. The result has been the rise of entities proclaiming 1st Amendment protections while tearing at the fabric of our nation by spewing hate and divisiveness. They engage in hateful discourse and encourage violence against anyone who does not look or think like them.
Now we live in a nation wary of not just the media posers; but all media, including what many call “the mainstream media.” People have taken to social media to not only find, but to create their own truth. They have fashioned tribes that practice group think, and refuse to consider that the real truth may be found outside their twitter feed.
It is against this backdrop that we see raucous town hall meetings, angry protestors going after one another and representatives being shot down in a ball park. Americans seem to be armed with their own individual facts that leave no room for discussion or dissent; with some willing to kill for them.
If we are to survive this current attack on our democracy we must somehow go back to the time when we realized that facts are facts, whether we agree with them or not. We must return to a time when those in power spoke the truth, and the media called them out when they did not. We have to somehow learn to put news gathering above garnering ratings.
If we cannot somehow find our way back to an America where truth and integrity are honored, and national discourse is respected, we are destined to go the way of many other historic empires. We are destined to fall.