Mr. Trump: It Is Our Right to Write (And Take Pictures)

I fear for America.
11/26/2016 03:57 pm ET Updated Nov 28, 2016
Carolyn Kaster/AP

When I first posted this article on Facebook shortly after the election, I experienced an almost immediate rush of haters who singled me out as un-American and who urged me to leave the country. Fellow journalists representing the nation’s mainstream and fact-based media received similar gut punches. Such a response only strengthens my resolve to stand and fight. There is no doubt I love this country, and I’ve been proud to serve in the government (under five presidents) for more than 30 years. But I began my professional arc as a journalist, and it is to that arc I return.

Here is what upset the haters:

I fear for America. I fear for America now that I am back from a trip to Australia where our dearest allies and comrades in arms stood slack-jawed and incredulous side by side with me and a room full of Americans expats as Donald Trump oozed his way into victory.

“Why would you do this to yourselves?” was a common question from my Aussie hosts. Why indeed? And why would we do this to our friends around the world?

For as long as the Trump presidency lasts, I will dedicate myself as a journalist to calling him and his appointees out for their racist, misogynistic, anti-intellectual, un-Constitutional, fear-mongering, polarizing, bully-boy approach to Executive Branch abuse. His appointments so far, Sessions, Flynn, and Pompeo, are men who openly espouse hatred and distrust of all they don’t know, don’t understand, or fear. His pick to lead the Department of Education, Betsy DeVos, has no public school leadership track record, and is well-known for supporting charter schools and voucher programs long-supported by Republicans who have little use for, or faith in, the nation’s public school systems. Vice-president-elect Mike Pence is, in my opinion, informed by history, a racist and conservative ideologue with no heart for the poor, the weak, the vulnerable and the suffering.

When I see the headlines that Mitt Romney, Nikki Haley, and other former GOP candidates who were savaged by Trump’s viper-toothed attacks during the campaign are finding themselves willing to turn toward the man who pummeled and denigrated them (and, in some cases, their families), I can only shake my head in sadness. To those who say that Trump is simply building on Abraham Lincoln’s concept of bringing together a team of rivals to lead the country, I can only say that I doubt seriously that Trump has read the book. He is no Lincoln.

I have given this great thought―I had little more to do than think of America’s future during my 30-hours of post-election flight back home from Australia. I like to think of myself as a fair judge of history and the legacies of all the preceding presidents. I have disagreed with all of them who have served in my voting lifetime. But I considered each deserving of my respect while they were our Nation’s leader. But not this incoming president; he will not be my leader.

I agree with Garrison Keillor’s position expressed in the Washington Post, November 15: “He will never be my president because he doesn’t read books, can’t write more than a sentence or two at a time, has no strong loyalties beyond himself, is more insular than any New Yorker I ever knew, and because I don’t see anything admirable or honorable about him.” Mr. Trump will not be my president, either; for me to accept that, would be tantamount to my accepting his sick, uneducated worldview and his flawed morality and lack of ethics. In my childhood family, we did not use the word hate to describe our impressions of another person, and that word is still unwelcome in my family today, so I cannot say I hate Donald Trump the man, though I do believe he is fundamentally an evil human being who has no qualms about voicing his hatred of much of humanity. Therefore, I have no qualms about finding hateful much of what he stands for. There is nothing about Donald Trump to be admired or emulated.

A November 26 Washington Post editorial concerned with Mr. Trump’s less-than-willing relationship with the news media, quoted Joel Simon, Executive Director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, when he warned of ‘“the danger that harassment of the press in the United States will be used as a pretext by repressive leaders around the world to persecute their critics.’

‘“President-elect Trump has obstructed major news organizations, attacked reporters by name, and contributed to a threatening climate for journalists covering the election’, Mr. Simon wrote. ‘These actions in the United States set a terrible example for the rest of the world’.”

I believe dark, dark days are ahead for America and Americans of all stripes, persuasions, and dreams. Most of all, the days will be dark for those of us who believe in reason, logic, education, liberal philosophies, and public debate and who will use those tools to examine every detail of the incoming president’s activities. We will be the ones who call out injustice wherever it appears. We will be the first to be punished for publishing our thoughts. So be it. It is our right to write (and to take pictures).

Given that Mr. Trump has already taken on the news media’s photographers and editors for unflattering coverage of his double chin, it is quite reasonable to expect an uptick in thin-skinned outbursts and tantrumps (sic intended) from the Oval Office whenever Mr. Trump feels aggrieved. If the actors of a Broadway play can be labeled ‘contemptuous’ or rude for merely offering words of hope to the vice-president-elect, then what of those of us whose words throw illuminating beams of investigation down the dark alleys of the coming administration? Will Trump demand apologies from any of us who dare to write the facts as we see them, or photograph his chins as we see them? Of course he will.

If history is any measure of the future, the virtual tattooing of numbers on those people the new president seeks to target for retribution will first appear not on the outstretched arms of the foreign-born, but on the keyboard-bent arms of those Americans who dissent openly and fearlessly in newsrooms large and small. I do not doubt that Trump is already buying the digital ink necessary to brand his dissenters. He is building his cadre of cyber-branding-iron-wielding Inquisitors, with many more to come.

I will write in opposition to the incoming administration until my arm is marked in the Trumpian cloud and the pixels tagging me as a dissenter are added to my permanent record on one of Trump’s servers. At least I will be able to say, as the last light of reason dims to black, I spoke truth to hatred. And I will take solace in the knowledge that I’ll be in good company.