As we gear up for the incoming administration, it can be difficult not to sink into a kind of despair; watching Trump’s cabinet appointments, for instance, is like having a night terror featuring a surrealist clown car, wherein the clowns all want to kill you. But here’s Christiane Amanpour, reminding us all to steady ourselves and focus on the clarity of what we know to be true and good about American ideals. The First Amendment, for instance.
At the International Press Freedom Awards Dinner on Tuesday night, the Iranian-British journalist was handed the Burton Benjamin Memorial Award, given to individuals whose careers amount to “lifelong work to advance press freedom.” Appropriately for the award in an unprecedented time, Amanpour gave a 15-minute-long acceptance speech that honored the Constitutional right to freedom of press and assembly and insisted that we fight to keep it intact. She offered a warning to her colleagues:
I learned a long, long time ago when I was covering the genocide and ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, never to equate victim and oppressor, never to create a false moral or factual equivalence. Because then, if you do and particularly in situations like that, you are party and accomplice to the most unspeakable crimes and consequences. So I believe in being truthful, not neutral. And I believe we must stop banalizing the truth. We have to be prepared to fight especially hard right now for the truth.
Amanpour’s whole speech is a refreshing blast of clarity in a time when the moment-by-moment information cycle can be currently burdening, particularly when each new bit of information is incrementally more devastating. She excoriates Trump and she memorializes Jo Cox. She reminds us that we still have the rights and capacity to combat the assemblage of gargoyles encroaching on Washington, and she does so with the kind of energy, urgency, enthusiasm and kinetic spark that has defined her work over the last three decades. (It should also be noted that she barely needed to glance at her notes, a true professional to the end.)
Delivered to a room of her peers, Amanpour’s charisma is enlivening, a badly needed recalibration of focus. “Since when did neo-Nazism and anti-semitism stop being a crucial litmus test in the United States?” she asks. “Bad things, as we all know, do happen when good people do nothing. And in the words of the great American Civil Rights leader, Congressman John Lewis, young people and not-so-young people have a moral obligation and a mission and a mandate to get into good trouble. So let’s go out there and get into some good trouble. And especially, let’s fight to remain relevant and useful. And perhaps, contemplating the long weekend ahead, let’s resolve not to be turkeys voting for Thanksgiving.”