Yes, FREEDOM of SPEECH and PRESS are for REAL in the USA

When I was 18 years old, I spent nearly a week in Communist Russia when it was the Soviet Union. What a scary place for an American girl from California. That summer I learned gratitude that I was an American and had a Constitution to protect my rights. While in the Soviet Union, I experienced a few incidents, of weird intimidation by the Communist powers that be. I was young woman on a tour with about 40 other students from around the USA, and this was one of the few tour groups that traveled into the Soviet Union back then.

First, we spent a few days in Moscow and then a few in Leningrad (now known as St. Petersburg). In Moscow the first night a police officer came by and asked me and three other tour members what we were doing- when were merely sitting on a park bench outside talking to each other on a summer evening. We told him “Nothing”. The tour members were from all over the USA. My roommate, M, for our stay in Moscow was from Alabama. I had never had friends from the South, so this was interesting to me to get to learn about people from different parts of the USA. The next evening, my roommate, M, and I visited another young woman, S, on the tour who was also from the South, from West Virginia. We just hung out in S’s room and talked for several hours. When we returned to our room, there was a passport photo of a mean looking Asian guy whom we had never seen before, with no passport and 100s of yen in a wallet. We did not know how it got in our locked room. That night we did NOT sleep well.

The next morning, we asked our tour guide to help us complain with the Inter-tourist agency that was located inside our hotel. The only thing they said to us was that the man who left the wallet and photos probably thought we looked cute. That did not calm my anxiety much. All I could figure out was that this was some kind of intimidation that was going on to keep all of us Americans in check. We were told by our American tour leaders to NOT sell our jeans, books, music, or give anything to Russian people because before we left Russia the police might stop us. That had happened to other American students with this same American tour group during previous years. We also knew we could not speak up much in Russia, so most of us observed and talked amongst ourselves. One older student knew some Russian and would sometimes translate for us. Our tour guide was a lovely Russian woman who was strictly business. I remember once I tried to photograph her. I only got a photo of the back of her head.

In Russia in the 1960s, we never saw children with their parents. When we visited all the sights, the children were always with their teachers or with the “Pioneers”, as they were called. The Communist state did a great job of indoctrinating children back then. I could feel the oppression of myself and the citizens of Moscow and St. Petersburg. It felt like a heavy winter coat on a hot, humid, sunny day. And, of course, freedom of speech and press were nonexistent. One of the fathers and great leaders of the Communist party in the Soviet Union was Joseph Stalin, who made sure that freedom of speech and press did NOT exist and controlled the press absolutely.

“Print is the sharpest and strongest weapon of our party.”
Joseph Stalin

Having had this experience before I went off to college framed my life in a picture of political activism. The Soviet Union in the mid 1960s showed me the importance of the USA’s first Ten Amendments to the Constitution- “The Bill of Rights”, of which Freedom of Speech and Press is the FIRST one.

In a Tweet on February 17 our new president heaped even more than just insults on our still FREE PRESS. This is the story about that event.

To have our President Donald J. Trump tweet:
it (the press) is the ENEMY of the AMERICAN PEOPLE”
This statement by a US president is unprecedented in our history.

This is a very ominous turn of events and reminds me of my short visit in Communist Russia, where the press was NOT FREE and controlled by the Communist leaders who followed Stalin. This is still true today in Russia under Putin. The press is no longer free as it was under former President Yeltsin in Russia. This is also true that the press is NOT free in most countries where they have autocratic leaders across the globe.

Former President George W. Bush, a Republican, on February 27 this year went on NBC “TODAY Show” and defended our FREE PRESS in the USA.

I feel deeply grateful to President George W. Bush that he stood up and spoke up for, not only himself, but for other Americans like myself who consider the First Amendment and our Free Press essential cornerstones of our freedom.

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Keeping the FAITH

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Last week about midweek, I was tormented during the night thinking I needed to fix the world and this country, in particular. I kept waking up feeling like I should do more to somehow prevent what was happening in this country I love. By the next day or two, I had the great opportunity to learn to have faith.

I have always loved learning about history, and I learned to love history in high school from a great teacher, Mr. Garfield. Now I live in a town where many of the streets are named after the presidents of the USA. I always feel great when I drive passed "Madison" Ave. I love President Madison for what he did to fix our US Constitution- he added the "Bill of Rights" to our U.S. Constitution. If you don't remember it, that is what is protecting all of us Americans right now. So now, I have faith that the US Constitution is going to protect us. And it is because we have a government with three branches of government, including a judicial branch, which came through for refugees and people who were trying to return to the USA with valid green cards and found out that they were from the wrong country last week. Because I live in a country which tends to follow the law (although with certain groups, justice has not always worked well and still needs to improve), I can sigh relief and let go of worry. I can have faith that I live in a country where not just one person can be a dictator.

I can have faith, too, that most people tend to try to do the right thing. This week I heard an old “Radio Lab” show called “The Good Show” about the goodness in most people. Try to listen to the entire show. I found this an uplifting show about the nature of most people. I needed the reminder.

http://www.radiolab.org/story/103951-the-good-show/?utm_source=local&utm_medium=treatment&utm_campaign=daMost&utm_content=damostviewed

I also have faith because I have a source that I go to. For me, that source has many names: God, the universe, a higher power, the great mystery, the energy that connects all of us (even if we are not aware of it), the God particle. All those names are one thing to me. When I can humble myself and surrender that I do not have answers or control hardly anything, I give my concerns and go to my source. Then I am free and much happier. When I look back on my whole life, I have always been connected and protected by my source, even if I was not aware of that protection at that time. Now I can see the connection and protection that happened at the times when I was in challenging situations. It was when I did NOT have FAITH, I made choices for my life that were detrimental. Even in making those unhealthy choices, at the time, often something very good and wonderful came into my life. Even the unhealthy choices when I was willing and humble to LEARN about myself and my part helped me to reflect on what I did, so that I now live with more gratitude, joy, and happiness most of the time.

I found this TED talk about FAITH that I can support. It is by Tom Honey “Why Would GOD Create a Tsunami?”

Another lesson in faith came in late October of 2016, when my mother died. After she had passed, my siblings, daughter, and nieces and grand nieces found in her books as we sorted through them scriptures that my mother had read that most of us were not aware of. Even though my mother’s twin sister had died 13 years earlier in a different state than my mother, and my mother had not gone to her sister’s service because my father was wheelchair bound (they were both 85 years old), my mother requested that the same scriptures that her twin sister had had read at her memorial service be read at my own mother’s service. This, to me, is God at work. My own mother’s connection to this scripture and the beauty and comfort that this scripture provides has now been passed on to me. I am finally aware of this scripture, and read it when I need it and so does my daughter.

Today, I read about some of my fellow Americans online. I am so proud of and have FAITH in you and us because so many people were calling the White House this week. We clogged the phone lines like never before. This is citizen activism at its best. Yeah!

I have borrowed the title of this blog somewhat from talk show host, Tavis Smiley, who is on PBS. This is a youtube video of him explaining why he says “Keep the Faith” at the end of every show he makes. I love the explanation and find it relates to this blog. Thank You, Tavis Smiley.

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