as published in the Blytheville Courier on October 22, 2016
By TOM HENRY
The earliest usage that I’ve been able to find for the phrase, “Throw the bums out” is from a 1926 edition of That Saturday Evening Post, but clearly the sentiment is timeless.
I am happy to say that I now have renewed faith in the democratic process of American elections. That is not to say that there aren’t major flaws of unfairness such as ballot access, incumbent advantage and lets not forget the incredible amount of cash it takes to be a successful candidate…but freedom of speech and of the press is still alive in Arkansas.
We at the CN have produced a series of five candidate debates (four completed) thus far and it warms my heart to know that I have the freedom to ask candidates for elected office hard questions without fear of being thrown in jail. Our internet access hasn’t been denied. The offices of the CN have not been rifled through and I haven’t been sent to some Siberian work camp for questioning our leaders.
That might sound cliché or even melodramatic to some, but to me its reassuring. As long as that right is still manifesting, then we are still free (at least mostly). It hasn’t always been that way. Not even in the United States.
Before our independence from Great Britain, those newspapers that questioned the central government were harassed, arrested, imprisoned and perhaps even worse. Yeah, you say, “Tom, but that was even before we become the United States.”
But forget not that in 1798…you know, when John Adams was president…our founding fathers passed “the Alien and Sedition Acts” which, among other things, made it a crime for American members of the press to write anything critical of the federal government. OUCH!
And don’t forget about good ol’ Honest Abe! He threw many newspapermen into prison for the duration of the war based solely upon their critical words printed.
Oh, you say that is because it was during the Civil War and the ends justify the means. I don’t think so. [We won’t even talk about his suspending the right of habeas corpus.
That right which literally means, “show me the body”, is the one that guarantees that you won’t be thrown into jail and forgotten about without even having charges drawn up. It also guarantees our right to a speedy trial.]
But, that was in a past age, before the modern world you say? Well then what about Woodrow Wilson and the Sedition Act of 1918 which extended the Espionage Act of 1917 to allow for more acts to be criminalized, notably speech and expression of opinion that cast the government or its war effort in a negative light. Could you imagine it being against the law to say anything negative about our government? It forbade disloyal, profane or abusive language about our leaders with penalties that included five to 20 years in prison for each offense.
What is an actively engaged American voter, if not profane and abusive of its government at times?!
The bottom line is, my heart bursts with pride because our ancestors have finally bequeathed to us a nation where we can challenge, question, rebuke and argue with our leaders and demand they be held accountable. Each of us has a role in that. Mine is to report and ask questions that they would prefer not to have to answer.
Yours is to also ask them questions and make them represent your will or “toss the bums out.”
Additionally, the CN debates that we have held have allowed me to see the passion each candidate’s supporters possess. A lot of the candidates that I have questioned are not good enough to get my vote, and are rascals in and of themselves. But thank God we have the right to be passionate about and vote in our rascals, while at the same time throwing those other bums out!
Thank God it is only 17 more days until the election is over!