Thanksgiving is over. Carcasses of unpardoned turkeys have been cleared from the table, their remains packaged or put in sandwiches, their bones thrown away or placed in pots of water for nourishing soup in the cold days ahead.
And like the remains of our feasts, there is a lingering thought for gratitude—the central theme of our Thanksgiving holiday. As writers, perhaps we can spare a moment to ponder the greatest gift we have – freedom of speech. What would happen if suddenly we weren’t able to say or write what is important to us? What if our stories were stolen, replaced only with “acceptable” thought?
Since 1981 the Committee to Protect Journalists has promoted freedom of the press worldwide, and defends the right of journalists to report the news without fear of reprisal. Why? Because according to CPJ’s mission statement, “Journalism plays a vital role in the balance of power between a government and its people. When a country’s journalists are silenced, its people are silenced.”
If the freedoms that CPJ protects were curtailed, it is very likely that some of our best stories would also be kept from us. Imagine the discussions that would NOT take place because stories like Fahrenheit 451, To Kill A Mockingbird, or Animal Farm would never be published. How rich would our lives be without Gulliver’s Travels, Lord of the Flies, or The Manchurian Candidate?
Think this couldn’t happen? On May 10, 1933, Nazis raided bookstores and libraries across the country of Germany and burned the works of Jewish and other “non-German” authors. Books by Jack London, Ernest Hemingway, Albert Einstein all fell victim to the flames of hatred and small-mindedness. Freedom of expression was assaulted along with those books. Freedom to think became a ghost-like and fragile energy in Germany for the next 12 years.
And here in the United States, soon after the atrocities of Jewish persecution, and attacks on the freedom to write, we endured the McCarthy years, and the House Committee on Un-American Activities. Many writers in Hollywood at that time lost careers and family, or opted to use pseudonyms in a desperate hope to continue writing and earning a living with their words.
So yes, if there is a spare moment between the holiday shopping, work as usual, and greetings to friends and family, perhaps we can say a little thanks to those who believe that the freedom to write is paramount to a successful society.
The Committee to Protect Journalists illustrates clearly the importance and dangers of speaking your mind. Since 1992, one thousand, two hundred, twenty journalists have been killed around the world for doing what you and I take for granted—they wrote.
In gratitude I write this post today; grateful for the teachers who taught me to read and write, grateful to those who read and share my stories, grateful for those yet to come, who will impact our world with their care-filled prose, their willingness to debate. I am grateful for the words that empower me each day:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press . . .”