Editorial: Dissent is not disloyalty

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Edward Murrow once said, “We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty.” Although Murrow said this years ago, this simple phrase has incredible relevance still today.

Last week, President Trump was displeased when Democrats in Congress did not stand to applaud him at his State of the Union address. On Monday, here’s what he said about those Democrats to a crowd in Cincinnati: “They were like death and un-American. Un-American. Somebody said, ‘treasonous.’ I mean, Yeah, I guess why not? Can we call that treason? Why not? I mean they certainly didn’t seem to love our country that much.”

It’s important to define treasonous in order to fully understand the gravity of what Trump was saying. According to Merriam-Webster treason is, “The offense of attempting by overt acts to overthrow the government of the state to which the offender owes allegiance or to kill or personally injure the sovereign or the sovereign’s family.”

By not standing to clap, Democrats are not committing treason. They’re not committing anything merely close to treason. According to CNN, when President Obama used to tout his own accomplishments, many Republicans would opt not to clap. But what is particularly problematic about Trump’s statement is that he is suggesting anytime Americans opt to dissent, to disagree with their government, that becomes an act of treason.

The First Amendment states, “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; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Ultimately, according to the First Amendment, Democrats are entitled to use their free speech to opt not to clap. The First Amendment is why so many discriminated groups were drawn to the United States over time. It’s what made America, America in the first place. It’s why immigrants like the Irish and Catholics came to the U.S. later. Even today, it’s why some Syrian refugees continue to seek American soil. Because dissenting, not liking something that happens in our government, is not punishable by law.

The First Amendment is what distinguishes the United States from so many totalitarian countries.

It’s time to stand for it. To not laugh off Trump’s comments as, “just a joke” or “good fun.” It’s time to understand that other things, like choosing to kneel during the National Anthem, does not make Americans “un-American.” It’s part of who we are. Most individuals, when they protest by kneeling or not clapping, are simply suggesting they want change within their own government. They are not conspiring against it. We need to be careful to not confuse those lines.

It’s time to stand for the First Amendment.

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