Even as a nation that has adopted the value of freedom as foundational to its identity, threats toward the freedom of the U.S. press have been consistent and increasing in the past four years. The most recent victim: Stars and Stripes, the military newspaper that has served soldiers overseas for over a century.
Last week, multiple national news outlets released reports that the Pentagon’s 2021 budget — approved by President Trump and released in February — did not include funding for Stars and Stripes. Under these cuts, the paper would have ceased publication as soon as Sept. 30. On Sept. 2, a bipartisan group of 15 senators wrote a letter to the Defense Department in support of the paper, calling it to continue funding Stars and Stripes.
On Sept. 4, hours after the widespread media coverage began, Trump tweeted his plans to reverse the budget cuts, claiming that “It will continue to be a wonderful source of information to our Great Military!”
Trump’s plans to continue funding Stars and Stripes do not negate the threats journalism has faced throughout his presidency. The nation’s ranking in the World Press Freedom Index has consistently decreased since 2016, marking the land of the free as the 45th freest country for the press. The denial of access for journalists for press engagement with the White House and Trump’s numerous declarations of “fake news” have hindered journalists’ access to accurate and truthful information.
Until now, the fight for freedom of the press has been mostly assumed by Democrats, with conservative news agencies like Fox News supporting Trump by actively furthering his agenda to eliminate “fake news.” But Stars and Stripes’ identity as a newspaper for American soldiers garners bipartisan support: for the American press and the American military.
Stars and Stripes has acted as a lifeline for American soldiers since the Civil War. Soldiers in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, France and all over the world have relied on the information, comfort and editorial freedom the paper has always offered. Despite its funding from the U.S. government, Stars and Stripes gives soldiers a platform to freely comment on and challenge higher-ups or the military as a whole. Without it, overseas soldiers would have little-to-no reliable access to news from home.
There aren’t many values that our majority two-party nation agrees on, yet Stars and Stripes symbolizes a union the United States lacks — and needs. The paper represents both Democratic support of the press and Republican support of the military, and acts as an image of unity of the two biggest parties in our country.
The passionate loyalty of both Republicans and Democrats to Stars and Stripes provides a glimmer of hope for the future of this split nation. The paper simultaneously represents values shared by both parties and the fact that by setting aside our differences and passionately pursuing justice, our nation can accomplish more united than divided.