No One Should Shut Up — The U.S. Constitution Gives Us That Right

A new administration in Washington means changes, no matter the party taking the White House.

Usually, it works like this: Everyone knows it’s coming, so everyone braces for the orderly process of a course correction, in that plodding way of the federal government.

Except that’s yesterday’s transition. This one is different: This one has taken off with breathtaking velocity, on the trajectory of an unguided missile. Disastrously executed, constitutionally suspect executive orders have rained from the sky as firestorms of statements have poured from the president’s Twitter account, while the commander-in-chief’s surrogates have barraged the nation with so-called alternative facts.

One cabinet nominee after another parades before the Senate, quite often not to build and improve, but to undermine the very institution they are to lead. Witness the president’s pick for education secretary, confirmed by a 51-50 Senate vote today: Betsy DeVos is a woman as unfamiliar with the public school system as she is a cheerleader of for-profit education.

There is much to digest in this, the nation’s new reality. That goes for everyone, but especially young people who take their cues from adults in their lives and in power — and especially us in the press. For this publication, for all of us in the press, it is time to adjust to the new reality, to assess, to learn and to study.

But it is not, nor has it ever been or ever will be a time to shut up.

Yet that is exactly what this administration wants us to do. You’ll remember in late January, the president’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, did what your momma told you was the rudest thing ever and told us to shut up.

Here he is in an interview with … the press: “The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while,” he told the New York Times on Jan. 26.

Keep our mouth shut?

Well, that’s about as likely as Lady Gaga keeping quiet during a Super Bowl halftime show. Like her, we’ll heap praise — be it on Kate Bush or Woody Guthrie — and we’ll share scorn when needed. And we’ll do it with volume and gusto.

That commitment to speaking up is especially true when it comes to the problems of and solutions for child welfare, mental wellness, juvenile justice, immigration, kids of color, LGBT kids, our children, the nation’s children … we’ll shout the concerns of those kids from the pages of this publication and the rooftops all day long.

Of course, it’s not just Steve Bannon’s and his boss’ enunciations that we follow and report on — and talk loudly about. It’s the utterances of every lawmaker and person in a position of power and influence over children and young adults across this country.

Statehouses, for example, are as busy as the White House these days. Georgia’s — just down the road from this publication’s office — is no exception. There, among other suspect pieces of legislation being planned, is one pushed by a state representative that would cut off state funding to any institution of higher learning in Georgia that seeks to defy a White House order to deport immigrants who are in this nation illegally.

So much for the idea of the sanctuary campus in Georgia, and, if the trend holds, the rest of the country.

That’s not something that will sit well with the Dreamers, or with anyone else who stops a minute to remember we are all a nation of immigrants, or with anyone firmly committed to the betterment of the nation’s young people.

That’s the tip of the iceberg, if you will, of pieces of legislation and policy changes, top to bottom, that will impact youth and those who work with them in the United States.

So, there’s a lot to do, lots to study up on, lots to report on, lots to write about and lots and lots and lots to talk about.

Shut up, indeed.


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