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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Scream: A Possibile Future Reality

So far this year, I have remained sort of apolitical, but my whole life I have been political. Since we have the slight possibility of having a former Reality Star as our President, I can NO LONGER be silent. I need to paint a picture of what the USA might look like should that slight possibility of Mr. Trump becoming our President come to pass. We don’t need to envision this, it is already a way of life in a particular state I know of. This state is being sued by the US Federal Government to protect the civil rights of the people in that state.

In the state of North Carolina, the following laws have been passed. The following services have been cut. Once laws such as these have been passed, we as a nation of governed by laws, are not quickly or easily able to turn those laws around and nullify them.

1. Gun laws: HB 937 dramatically expanded protections for gun rights. The new law allows North Carolinians with valid concealed-carry permits to protect themselves in several areas that were previously gun-free zones, including restaurants that sell ALCOHOL, greenways (parks), and establishments that charge admission. The law also allows permit holders to keep guns in locked compartments inside vehicles while on the property of a public university, community college, SCHOOL, or state government parking lot.

2. Lawmakers passed a bill that prohibited the state from accepting
Federal Medicaid funding that would have made health care benefits available to more citizens. They also chose not to set up a state health exchange program to implement the Affordable Care Act.

3. In public schools, the lawmakers cut funding to almost all districts in 2013, 2014, and 2015 including cutting assistants and many other positions around the state. Here is an article about education in North Carolina from the Washington Post:
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2015/08/07/north-carolinas-step-by-step-war-on-public-education/

4. It establishes a NEW VOTER identification system that requires voters to present certain acceptable forms of ID: driver’s license, non-operator ID card, tribal ID card, military ID card, or passport. Any North Carolina citizen who does not have a valid government-issued ID will be able to obtain one at no cost through the Division of Motor Vehicles. The law does not take full effect until 2016, with gradual implementation beginning in 2014. THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT SUED THE STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA FOR THIS NEW LAW, AND SAID IT IS AGAINST THE CIVIL RIGHTS OF NORTH CAROLINIANS, recently.

5. Since Roe V Wade is still the law of the land this is this state’s solution:
a. Prohibits individuals and families from obtaining abortion coverage through the health-exchange, even if they buy their insurance plan entirely with their own money.
b. Strips comprehensive reproductive healthcare coverage from thousands of city and county employees, coverage that the majority of private insurance plans offer.

6. This is the state where the “bathroom law”, HB2, against transgender people became a furor. What was is more, this law from 2015 bars anyone from suing the state of North Carolina for any CIVIL RIGHTS’ VIOLATIONS. Examples: age, racial, gender discrimination. Here is a further explanation:
http://www.xojane.com/issues/hb2-north-carolina-nondiscrimination

7. This state has an anti immigrant stance. Law H.B. 318 The bill invalidates consular documents as acceptable forms of identification. This was not the case before it was passed. This law would prohibit North Carolina cities from passing community trust policies, known as sanctuary city ordinances, that seek to build trust by limiting local law enforcement’s cooperation with the federal government over civil immigration matters.

8. Governor McCrory of this state signed a bill into law in mid July 2016 that:
makes that footage from police dashboard cameras inaccessible to the general public, including everyday citizens who were recorded in the footage and might need it to prove police misbehavior. Loud out cry did NOT matter.

I could go on. This is not a USA I want to live in. There will be NO Federal Government to protect our Civil liberties and rights, if this kind of thinking is our US FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. It could be more like a country with which Mr. Trump is very chummy, Russia, and its leader.

President Putin, whose former job during the Soviet Union’s communism was running the KGB (secret police), is one scary leader. Russia is not a reality show. Russia today is probably more free than when I visited it in 1965. I am generally a pretty cheerful person. I was depressed everyday I was in Russia (for about a week as a tourist). “Everyone” had a job and apartment (although you might be sharing one with another family) and was equally poor; I never saw a child with his/her parents. While there, I was watched, as were all of us who traveled with me. I grew up in a household where I had NO say. How about a whole country where you felt like you were in a prison? Mr. Trump is NO laughing matter. That is why I have to SCREAM THIS FROM THE ROOFTOPS.
This is a newer report by an American organization that has been around since 1941, Freedom House. This is their report on the level of freedom in Russia today:
https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2015/russia

The fact that Mr. Trump is so openly friendly with Russia and is dismissing NATO and the countries in it: Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom, and the United States, Greece and Turkey (joined in 1952), West Germany, (joined in 1955) and Spain (joined in 1982), which have been our allies, is frightening to me.

Let what has happened in the state of North Carolina be a warning.

This blog is not being written against the people of North Carolina. I still know wonderful people and have friends there. What has happened in this state since it became a red state in the legislature and with the governor in 2012 is one of the saddest, most shocking set of changes that I have ever seen in my life, and I have lived in California, Arizona, Texas, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, North Carolina, and Oregon.

WE all have a choice this election.

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