Veteran newsman Dan Rather says he's concerned about the direction the nation may take under President-elect Donald Trump and his supporters and is urging Americans to back causes "that will fight to protect our liberties."
In an emotional essay posted Tuesday on his Facebook page, the former CBS News anchor writes:
"Now is a time when none of us can afford to remain seated or silent. We must all stand up to be counted. History will demand to know which side were you on," the former CBS News anchor wrote.
"This is not a question of politics or party or even policy. This is a question about the very fundamentals of our beautiful experiment in a pluralistic democracy ruled by law."
Rather, who hosts "The Big Interview" on AXS TV, said he was stunned to watch Saturday's gathering of the alt-right National Policy Institute at the Ronald Reagan federal building in Washington, where attendees shouted "heil" and "lugenpresse," the latter a Nazi term meaning "lying press."
"When I see neo-Nazis raise their hands in terrifying solute, in public, in our nation's capital, I shudder in horror. When I see that action mildly rebuked by a boilerplate statement from the President-elect whom these bigots have praised, the anger in me grows," Rather writes.
"And when I see some in a pliant press turn that mild statement into what they call a denunciation I cannot hold back any longer. Our Declaration of Independence bequeaths us our cherished foundational principle: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.'
"These truths may be self-evident but they are not self-replicating. Each generation has to renew these vows. This nation was founded as an opposite pole to the capriciousness of an authoritarian monarch. We set up institutions like a free press and an independent court system to protect our fragile rights."
Rather says the United States "survived through bloody spasms" of the Civil War and a Civil Rights Movement to allow for more of these rights.
"But the direction of our ship of state has not always been one of progress. We interned Japanese Americans, Red Baited during the McCarthy era, and more. I feel the riptide of regression once again swelling under my feet. But I intend to remain standing," Rather writes.
"In normal times of a transition in our presidency between an incoming and outgoing administration of differing political parties, there is a certain amount of fretting on one side and gloating on the other. And the press usually takes a stance that the new administration at least deserves to have a chance to get started — a honeymoon period.
"But these are not normal times. This is not about tax policy, health care, or education — even though all those and more are so important. This is about racism, bigotry, intimidation and the specter of corruption … To all of you I say, stay vigilant."
Rather adds that civil-rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. knew "that even as a minority, there was strength in numbers in fighting tyranny."
"We are a great nation. We have survived deep challenges in our past. We can and will do so again. But we cannot be afraid to speak and act to ensure the future we want for our children and grandchildren," Rather says.
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