Before there ever was a Second Amendment protecting the right of the people to organize a militia, or, as is believed today, to protect an individual’s right to bear arms, there was the First Amendment.
The First Amendment, perhaps the most important. It is first after all. We all know it, but let’s repeat it anyway, in all its glory, as the founders wrote it:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
So much that is dear to the United States, all packed in this amendment.
Freedom of (and from) religion. The freedom to assemble. Freedom to protest and tell the government what is wrong. Freedom of speech and, more specifically, the freedom of the press — expanded in the modern world to include newspapers, televisions stations, a local blogger or worldwide YouTube star, magazines, internet sites and all journalists who spend their lives informing their communities.
The press. Or, as President Donald Trump prefers to say repeatedly in the style of a tinpot dictator: the Enemy of the People.
Today, with the Boston Globe organizing the effort, newspapers around the United States of America are writing about the essential role of the press in this great country of ours.
The Santa Fe New Mexican — an independent newspaper owned by Robin Martin — is among those taking stock of what the press means to our nation.
The press is not here to praise the president lavishly or serve as cheerleader to his pet projects. The press is not propaganda. The press is independent, designed to be a watchdog — on government, the powerful, and any forces that operate secretly and without sunlight.
As Thomas Jefferson wrote to John Jay in 1786: “Our liberty cannot be guarded but by the freedom of the press, nor that be limited without danger of losing it.”
New Mexican reporters and photographers sit through long City Council or Board of Education meetings.
We request and read public documents, interview survivors of tragedy, track wasteful spending by government officials or photograph floods so that readers can comprehend the destruction. We document the successes, the joys and the accomplishments of our community.
We are not enemies. We are your neighbors, your friends and for some of you, your relatives.
When the president insults journalists and encourages his followers to attack reporters, he is falling just short of inciting violence. Such attacks have been ugly and unrelenting. As a result, a Quinnipiac University poll from earlier this month shows that 51 percent of GOP respondents identified with Trump’s “enemy of the people” statement. That’s compared to only 5 percent of Democrats and 24 percent of independents.
In the United States, in 2018, we have moved from a First Amendment that celebrates freedom of the press to a president who encourages his supporters to consider journalists their enemies. And what happens to enemies? They are defeated, they are bloodied and eventually, they are eliminated. That is the logical progression.
Before it is too late, we urge our fellow citizens — especially the ones who voted for Trump — to push back. Tell President Trump that journalists are not the enemy. Buy an advertisement in your local newspaper, or subscribe to a print or online edition. Support local journalism, because otherwise the news of your community will not be reported.
Our best hope is that all those who claim to be patriots and who love this country will speak out — for the free press, for the First Amendment and against a president who makes reporters enemies of the people.
In the meantime, we will keep putting out a newspaper.