The plain meaning of words is denied. The truth is malleable. Constitutional principles are denigrated. Journalists are impugned, smeared, and assaulted. Societal groups are vilified and threatened. Hate speech is emboldened. The disavowal of “political correctness” becomes a cover for unmasked bigotry. Swastikas appear in schools and on the sides of churches. For many at home and around the world, the United States is becoming a locus of fear rather than hope.
Every issue on our national agenda—environmental protection, women’s rights, LGBT rights, healthcare, immigrant protections, averting wars—will be thwarted if the media is impeded from covering it and if supporters cannot exercise their free speech rights to demand it. PEN America’s core mission—the freedom to write—now undergirds the preservation and promotion of every social good that has made our country great.
When national politics and government go astray, citizens and their organizations must rise up to keep a nation and society on course. With our mission to celebrate and defend free expression and protect the liberties that make it possible, PEN America’s role has never been more urgent. We are organizing to meet this moment with the clarity and force that current threats demand.
Here is what we are doing:
- We’ve just launched DARE, the Daily Alert on Rights and Expression to keep everyone posted in this fast-moving moment.
- We are creating the PEN Transition Update, PENT-UP, tracking free expression implications of the Presidential transition, including high-level appointments.
- We have launched a free expression pledge to put our concerns at the forefront of the national agenda; we have already enlisted many of the country’s largest and leading rights-focused groups to support the principles we have spelled out.
- We are preparing a toolkit for writers, advocates and activists who stand ready to defend free expression in their communities, schools, campuses and libraries.
- We are convening a symposium in November with a group of this country’s most prominent student activists, college and law school Deans and Provosts, and leading free expression scholars. This meeting will help implement the PEN America Principles on Campus Speech, which has taken on new relevance and urgency right now.
- We have initiated a language watch powered by PEN America’s community of writers to document and resist the perversions and distortion of language that have characterized the recent political process, and to defend the integrity of our language.
- We are inviting you to join PEN America and writers around the U.S. to attend WRITERS RESIST: Louder Together for Free Expression, a major literary protest and show of strength that will take place on the birthday of civil rights icon Martin Luther King, Jr. on Sunday, January 15 at 2 p.m. on the steps of the New York Public Library’s Schwarzman Building at 42nd St. Let’s stand with PEN America to defend free expression, reject hate crimes and uphold truth in the face of lies and misinformation! Family-friendly, Free and Open to all.
PEN America stands as a bulwark defending free expression, free assembly, the diversity of voices, and the force of reason. But we cannot do it alone. We need the depth of your support to match the demands that this moment imposes. We are launching an emergency campaign to underwrite these activities and to protect the rights now under siege. We know we can count on you.