Speak out; our democracy demands it

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In the last issue of Youth Today, we took a stand against the haters who would divide us as one nation under God and dim this great country’s beacon of love, hope and freedom. We wrote that editorial before a half million people showed up for the Jan. 21 Women’s March on Washington. That was planned well in advance, but what happened in cities around the world was a spontaneous outpouring of deep concern, solidarity and love.

We are headquartered in the Atlanta metropolitan area. That Saturday driving rain and winds turned umbrellas inside out. It looked unlikely that the 12,000 people who signed up on Facebook to march would show up.

We went anyway. We got trapped on a side street, and it was impossible to hear the speakers, but no one seemed to mind. The sun came out, and from our vantage point we could see a constant flood of people coming down a city street with a steep incline, as if someone was pouring them into the direction of the crowd. And they kept coming.

The main route was a solid mass of women, men and children, signs in hand, pink pussy cat hats on heads as far as one could see in front and in back. We later learned that was what 65,000 determined people look like.

There literally was a movement afoot. Weeks later, as we write this, the movement does not seem to be abating. One chant that struck us loud and clear was: “What does democracy look like? This is what democracy looks like!”

Now we want that to be a mantra that reverberates deep into each of us. Because away from the street we find a very chilling effect taking place. Civil servants, like many of us, are being given gag orders. Recently, we sat in a meeting on our college campus and listened with great sorrow and concern as faculty members were trying to parse exactly what they were allowed to say and what they were not allowed to say on campus and in public. We were watching a dual whack, one to academic freedom and the other to freedom of speech.

We remember not too long ago having a discussion with a visitor from China. She said their government doesn’t censor people; rather, the people are told to censor themselves. Heaven help us, it sounds like the alternative universe that is seeping into our own culture. Listen, this part is not about progressives vs. conservatives vs. libertarians. It’s about our freedom of speech and really freedom of thought being in jeopardy. Of course, the government can accomplish that when we do censor ourselves. Our advice: don’t.

At every possible turn, make your voice heard. We know the pressures, but we have to stand united for freedom of speech. Encourage your employees and your students to speak out — call out any elected official who wants to muffle your voice. Let everyone from every political persuasion take a stand for freedom of speech because one thing we know we can’t stomach is politicians spewing forth as the rest of us are silenced. We at Youth Today are ready to fight to be heard. Are you?