I read United State Senator Tom Cotton’s New York Times Editorial advocating the use of the Insurrection Act and sending federal troops into our cities to quell both violent riots, and the peaceful protests of civil disobedience.
I don’t dismiss Cotton’s service to American in our nation’s military. He, like millions of men and women before him, and those who stand in the defense of America today, deserve our gratitude for their service.
Yet, I am at a loss to understand why a duly elected United States Senator, who put his life literally on the line to defend and uphold the freedom and democracy of America, would be so quick to take it away from his fellow citizens protesting across the country.
After all, if freedom, democracy and liberty was worth defending with his life and blood in Iraq and Afghanistan, should that sacrifice not be celebrated with the voices of protesters on American streets calling for freedom, democracy and liberty for all Americans?
As galling as Cotton’s views expressed in the New York Times editorial page may be, it would have been far more costly to American ideals if the protests of those who disagreed with his views won the day and prevented the piece from being published.
The New York Times Editorial Page lacks the impact it once had in American life.
Sadly, the paper itself has lost its moral clarity, as well.
Which is a problem.
And the forced resignation from the paper of those who were responsible for making the decision to publish Cotton’s piece should not be seen as a victory for the ideals being called for on America’s streets.
It should be seen as another nail in the coffin of America’s 4th Estate at a time when we desperately need our nation’s media to matter more than ever before.
Trying to hide Cotton’s views from plain sight is far more dangerous to the ethos and credibility of America’s media than the revolutionary act of publishing them.
After all, ideas inside the minds of powerful people that are hidden from the view of the American people are for more dangerous than publishing them.
In fact, we should welcome a wide dissemination of these views so that the American people can have a clear view of the thinking of those who lead America, as well as those that want to lead America.
Our nation’s media has become a microcosm of the unflattering reality of our country’s college campuses.
Once a place where ideas, popular and more importantly unpopular, could be argued and debated by young people from all over the world, we now see these debates stifled by those wanting safe spaces from ideas that make them uncomfortable when they collide with their personal worldview.
Now, our media, already saddled with a rapid decline in credibility and influence, is seeing its own version of diminishing space for unpopular ideas being aired in public.
Add to that the scourge of social media as a place where reporters claim to be exercising balance in their reporting while espousing personal views on Twitter and Facebook that belie these claims and it’s not hard to see why Americans have an increasingly dim view of their nation’s news media at every level.
In watching the coverage of COVID-19 and the protests and riots in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd, I have been struck by the news coverage.
Much of it has been hailed and celebrated – as it should be.
Unfortunately, too much of it has been media backslapping itself for doing its job.
A job that is important and necessary but does not endow it with special privileges and rights that permit it to act with impunity while law enforcement and Minnesota National Guard are in the middle of simply doing their job.
Which is what the media, and the New York Times, should endeavor to do.
When Tom Cotton proposes sending the U.S. Military into our streets and feels it is a matter of utmost national public policy, we should give him the space to share his views.
In the same way we should give the majority of the Minneapolis City Council the opportunity to share their views that dismantling and disbanding their entire police department is in the best interests of public safety for the citizens of Minneapolis.
I find both policy positions to be abhorrent and an anathema to a civil society.
But I also want those views shared far and wide so that the people of our country, and our state, can understand what those in positions of power propose to do in their name.
The New York Times Editorial Board didn’t err in allowing Cotton’s opinion to be published.
They did the right thing.
The wrong thing would have been to hide what Tom Cotton thinks from America.
We don’t need to know less of what people in positions of power and influence think and have to say.
We need more of it and we need it in their own words.
For better or for worse that is how democracy survives in an era in which far too many know far too little about what those in power wish to do in our names.