I’m excited to announce that a global literary and free speech organization, PEN International, has established a new chapter in Dallas, Texas. Founded in London in 1921, PEN International has a very simple mission: preserve literature in all its forms and ensure everyone can engage in free speech and freedom of expression. These are core elements in any truly democratic society, but they are constantly being challenged and even threatened by self-appointed guardians of writing, journalism and speech; people who seem to think they have the right and the power to determine what the rest of us can say and read. It’s a never-ending battle and, sadly, it never will be won. Those of us who advocate for a free press and free speech will always have to confront the oligarchical bullies who feel they – and only they – are blessed with inalienable rights to speech and literature.
Pen International felt the need to establish the Dallas / Fort Worth chapter in the wake of the fraudulent 2016 U.S. presidential election, which has given us an arrogant, foul-mouthed, womanizing, reality TV star in the White House.
“At a time of exceptional threats to free expression and open discourse, our chapters will bring years of mobilization, activism and organizing among writing communities across the country to the next level,” PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel said in a statement. The Dallas/Fort Worth chapter, as well as others around the U.S. will be vehicles for “pushing back against the breakdown of civil discourse, the marginalization of vital voices, and encroachments on press freedom.”
This shouldn’t be a surprised to anyone familiar with U.S. politics. I’ve noticed over the years that, any time a conservative Republican lands in the White House, free speech and freedom of the press come under attack. They have no problems loosening gun laws and sending our military to fight stupid wars (as if there’s such a thing as a “smart” war). But, when it comes to education, health care and even voting, conservatives suddenly feel the need to debate the matter.
Regardless of how hard we have to fight to ensure the rights to free speech and freedom of the press, we will always take up the torch of liberty and justice.
Everyone has a story and everyone needs to be heard.