Since the President has apparently availed himself of his right to free speech while criticizing others who do so, I thought that I’d throw in my two cents while I still can. Though I know that Twitter is his preferred means of communication, I’ve decided, instead, to draft him an open letter.
Mr. President, first let me congratulate you on your victory in the most recent presidential election. While I do not personally support you, it must be said that your straightforwardness is a quality that is rare in politics. The throngs of people that classify you as “not my president” are sore losers, and should accept the fact that you did, indeed, win. Now that you’re the occupant of the most important office in the free world, I thought I’d share some insights that might help you along in your governance.
Even though the people who have previously held your office have enjoyed the “bully pulpit,” as Theodore Roosevelt called it, you’ve taken things to a new level. Twitter is not an appropriate tool for the president of the United States to use when it comes to foreign policy. I really never thought that spelling that fact out would be necessary, but apparently, that’s the world in which we live. As a matter of fact, Twitter shouldn’t be a means of communication between the president and the American people, either, at least not to the extent to which you have taken it during your first year in office. Your use of the social media platform to bash and disparage many fine, upstanding people and organizations is, at best, alarming, and at worst, criminal. I wonder how you’d react if the roles were reversed, and you were the one being criticized by a person of your considerable power.
While I don’t necessarily see your use of Twitter as the most important issue of your presidency so far, your latest outpourings on the site have been a mess. When I first saw your Tweets calling for athletes who knelt during the national anthem to be fired, I was appalled. Not only did you seem to contradict yourself (you had previously suggested that U.C. Berkeley should be cut off from federal funding for limiting free speech), you contradicted the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Never have I known of a situation wherein the sitting President shows such a blatant disregard for the principles on which our great nation was founded. By not allowing people to protest what they feel is unjust treatment, you put a stranglehold on free speech, and in doing so, oppress the people who are on the bottom of the societal pyramid. You don’t necessarily have to agree with those people, Mr. President, but you do have to give them an opportunity to make their case.
As the quote from Evelyn Beatrice Hall famously asserts, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” This sentiment is reflected by our founding fathers and our Constitution, and so should it be reflected by the leader of the United States. In that same vein, however, I must also apply these principles to myself. As long as you don’t take any action beyond voicing your opinion, Mr. President, I will defend your right to say what you believe.
But remember this, and remember it well: you have influence. You possess more power to create change in the world than almost anybody else alive, and you can do so by simply pressing “send” on a message that is 140 characters or fewer. Whether you like it or not, sir, your Tweets are viewed by the citizens of the United States and people around the world as America’s official statements, and you should keep this in mind as you exercise your right to free speech. If you believe that anthem protesters should be fired or otherwise punished, that’s fine. But unless you want the world to view the United States of America as an increasingly dictatorial nation, I strongly suggest another means of speaking out.