By Assunta Ng
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
The Fourth of July is coming up as chaos and turmoil are ripping this country apart after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions to overturn Roe vs. Wade and ban abortions, rule in favor of an individual’s right to carry a handgun for self-defense, and most recently, side with a Washington state high school football coach’s constitutional right to pray on the field with his players for liberty in religion.
Although many were surprised by the Court’s decision, I am not, knowing that conservative judges, appointed by former President Donald Trump and voted in by Republicans, are now dominating the court. All these judges want to extend their footprint in every fabric of American life. They don’t care about the impact of their actions on society. Nor do they care how the new laws would hurt the common people, including women being usurped of their abortion rights.
July 4 brings us two questions. The purpose of the national holiday is to celebrate the birth of American independence as one nation, free from British tyranny. Unity is not in the Republican Party’s agenda. Should we celebrate at this time of division and polarization? Can we do something about the Court’s tyranny? I am afraid there is very little we can do now if Republicans would win the election and be the majority in Congress this November.
However, don’t count on Democrats either. They don’t have their act together. Moderate and socialist Democrats have not worked out their ideological differences. For the progressive Democrats, the call for “defunding the police” seems to hurt their party more than helping.
Democracy is messy. We spend a lot of time talking and fighting. It’s one of the worst forms of government, but would I want to live in an undemocratic country? No. No. No. Although we can’t celebrate “unity” at this point, there are numerous reasons to celebrate. Freedom is one of the important motives for fighting the war against Britain. For us Americans, being a free people living in a free country is a significant call for celebration.
Where I came from, there is no such thing as free speech. You can’t criticize the government. Any unfavorable criticism you have about the government, you would be a dead horse, period.
Imagine those who live in autocratic countries—they have to be a “yes” person in everything the government has done. How many times do people zip their lips or lie in order to survive? How many times do people pretend they are blind just to stay out of jail or avoid being killed?
Not only do I enjoy free speech, I practice the First Amendment by making a living in the media business, as long as we comply with libel laws. A free press means our government answers to the people. We don’t need to have second thoughts before criticizing the federal, state, county, and city government. Any time someone complains to us about the government, our pen is ready to denounce. That doesn’t mean we only criticize, we give credit where credit is due. We rave about great deeds, courage of individuals, and justices done in the society to inspire others to do the right thing. We want to lift others up with the stories we tell. We like to motivate others to collaborate to solve problems for the common good. We encourage others to imagine and share wonderful ideas for the betterment of mankind.
When I first launched my newspapers, I thought of free speech as a gift. Scared about my venture, my stepfather asked, “Don’t you have to ask government permission to start a newspaper?” He was concerned that I had crossed a line.
Ask permission from whom? I didn‘t need the power to give me the powerless permission.
“No, dad,” I told him.”All I need is a business license.” It only cost about $20 and took less than 10 minutes to apply from the City of Seattle. And no questions asked during the application process. I wasn’t even a U.S. citizen then. That’s how democracy works. In another country, I would be intimidated, my motives challenged, and I could have possibly been arrested just because of my attempt to start a newspaper.
After four decades of being in the publishing business, I believe it is not a gift, it is a right to publish the printed word. Free speech is guaranteed in the First Amendment and the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The difference between a gift and a right is colossal. A gift is not fixed or expected. It is at the mercy of the giver. A right is entitlement. You have it, you own it—it’s yours without needing the consent of anyone. How empowering it is for me to say without fear of condemnation that it’s “our right” to write the truth. We can educate our government to listen and change their perspective. We can denounce and criticize the government any time we want. We can lobby them to make decisions and implement policies, which can affect our community.
When government officials don’t listen, like when former mayor Ed Murray put a Navigation Center right in the Chinatown-International District (CID), the consequences were dire to the CID.
We will remember him for that and put it in the record. Now with Mayor Bruce Harrell, we can share with him our concerns. And he has taken action. That’s accountability. Despite several recent cleanups of homeless camps and the presence of a regular police mobile unit to discourage loitering, these people are all back. On Sunday, June 26, they were all over Little Saigon and not just in a little corner of 12th Avenue South. The problem is obviously unresolved. So we have to bug Mayor Harrell again in this blog and to tell him personally. He will have to strategize with his team again to come up with better solutions. That’s how democracy works.
Being a journalist in the free world, we have the right to raise all kinds of issues, popular and unpopular ones. In fact, our job is not to have government officials look good. I never even have to think about, “Oh, we have to be careful when we are scolding government officials.” I never even wonder, “Is this the right time?” “Do we hurt their feelings?” We just know it’s our right. By the way, no officials have ever asked, “Are you a U.S. citizen, operating newspapers?” It would be perceived as an inappropriate question with hidden implications of racism. All thanks to the fact that we are living in America. Being an immigrant American is a gift, profoundly contributed by my parents the moment they said yes to permit me to come to America. For this, I am eternally grateful to my parents and America. In that light, I celebrate July 4 with all my heart. God bless America.
Assunta can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.