(Today’s piece is written by my good friend, Leora Tec. Ms. Tec is a writer, speaker, and founder & director of Bridge to Poland.)
“Don’t lose focus!”
“You’re missing the most important thing.”
“Keep your eye on the ball.”
These are all phrases that those of us who are upset/devastated/worried/panicking (pick your favorite) about DJT’s election have heard or uttered since November 8th. But what “ball” exactly are we supposed to keep our eyes on? On this, opinions differ. Some believe it’s climate change—if we don’t do something NOW to turn back the tide on global warming our planet will be doomed and China will take the lead in the renewable energy field. Some say it’s women’s rights, reproductive and other, and if we don’t take a clear and firm stance in this area, we are in danger of turning back the clock to a time when America was most certainly not great—back to a “Mad Men”-esque world of coat hanger abortions. Others point to Trump’s disturbing reluctance to criticize Russia and Putin. They point to the way he draws a moral equivalency between the U.S. and Russia and to his seeming dismissal of NATO’s vital importance to geopolitical stability. The issue that sent me into the streets was the refugee ban, with its disturbing echoes of a dark time, seventy-five years ago, when my family was being persecuted and murdered because of their faith.
When it comes to “Keeping our eye on the ball” – it feels urgent to keep all of these issues clearly in view. To lose sight of any one of them could lead to possibly irreversible global and individual consequences. But if I had to choose one place to focus my attention, it would be on Donald Trump himself—on his constant need for praise and affirmation and, even more worryingly, on the willingness of his cadre of sycophants to cater to that need. That same need seems to be fed by having an enemy on whom to focus his vitriol, and a major enemy he has chosen is the press.
This choice could prove extremely dangerous. A free press, in which the public can put their faith, is essential to our democracy. Trump’s grandiosity has already resulted in so much press-bashing that you hear ordinary Americans calling up radio stations saying that the mainstream press cannot be trusted (and I am talking about NPR; what they say on AM radio is much more hateful). I heard one woman say that life in Russia was better than here and that they surely have more freedoms!
Whenever Trump is dissatisfied with how things are going for him, he bashes the press. The latest, as of this writing, is his blatantly false assertion (made to support the hateful refugee ban) that the press has not been reporting terrorist attacks. Those of us who believe in the integrity of the major media outlets in this country know this to be preposterous, but to the 40% of Americans who still support him: is the picture so clear? We are only several weeks into the Trump presidency and it has become evident that he is more thin-skinned than we could have imagined and that his understanding of the Constitution and his role as president and commander-in chief is tentative at best. How much trust will be eroded in the weeks, months and, God help us, years to come? If people have no faith in the press — and in press reports of what Trump and his cronies are destroying in the areas of the environment, healthcare, civil rights, and foreign policy — will those reports even make an impact?
A free press is the bedrock of our democracy. It’s not by chance that autocrats discredit the press when they come to power. We must be on guard against this type of persecution, above all. Otherwise none of the other battles we are fighting— for the environment, for civil rights, for women’s rights, for so much more—will stand a chance of being won.