Let me share with you what I have been contemplating for two weeks. You see, I’ve always been hesitant about calling myself a journalist. Why? Because I treat journalism with utmost respect and reverence; a free press is the only thing that stands between freedom and tyranny. This is not theory, this is a reality I experienced first-hand as my family and I were forced to flee my birthplace Ethiopia in 1982. Journalism is an honorable profession, it’s a calling that requires dedication and the tenacity to always seek truth at all costs.
This spirit of muckraking has been bled out by a corporate culture that seeks profits at the cost of humanity. A fact that will be made painfully clear tomorrow evening as a bunch of corporate journalists gather at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner to party it up and get drunk with the very people they are supposed to be keeping tabs on. I’ve always felt that my missives were not in keeping with the true tenets of journalism. I do not have the means and the wherewithal to hit the streets to uncover malfeasance and to root out corruption. To this end, I saw myself more as an observer providing analysis through derivative.
About a month ago, upon finding out that David Sirota was exiting the “fourth estate” to join Bernie Sanders, I took him to task for dishonoring the very essence of what it means to be a journalist. I was pretty harsh in my condemnation; he spent years vilifying Bernie’s opponents without laying a glove on his favored politician only to quit being a reporter and become a hired mouthpiece of Vermont’s senior Senator. I called him, rightly, a political operative who wore a mask of a journalist for two years.
Which then brings me to my current predicament. Now I see why a very wise man once said “as you measure others, you too shall be measured accordingly”. I find myself going through cognitive dissonance at this moment, after spending eleven years trying to effect change from the outside, I realize that screaming alone only leads to sore throats and tired soles. Moreover, our politics is brilliantly deceptive, even those of us who know better than to believe in the fraudulence of the status quo nonetheless are triggered by “news” only to lose our agency amidst a sea of manufactured outrage and useless sensationalism that is pumped into the ether by the establishment.
This feeling of marginalization is worsened with each passing day, the minute that Julian Assange got arrested, the number of visitors at the Ghion Journal took a nosedive and the quantity of interactions on our various social media accounts cratered. There is no way for me to prove this but this I know from both first hand experience and from the recounting of countless other independent journalists: Facebook, Google and Twitter are working in concert—most likely at the behest of their benefactors—to stifle free speech and silence independent journalists.
Given these mounting obstacles, the old me would have given up and walked away from this backbreaking work that pays nothing and demands a lot. This is the life of independent media, all guts no glory. However, instead of giving up, I decided to start praying and contemplating. Why? Because two years of homelessness and hardship taught me that when people are saying no to you, that is God way of saying yes and leading you into a different direction.
People who read my writings on a regular basis know that there are common themes to my reflections. I frequently mention my birth land Ethiopia, I always mention the need for unity above all else and I occasionally talk about my faith not to convert others but to share my journey. I’ve also been railing against the establishment, especially the media-politico complex; I see the debased (you know I don’t call them elites) as the source of most social inequalities.
What I could not articulate was an alternative vision. If the two political parties are equally bankrupt, which they are, and if democracy is nothing more than a pipe dream sold to medicate the broader public, which it is, what is a solution apart from these problems? I don’t believe in fixing the parties from within, that is like hiring Joe Biden as a babysitter or asking Trump to be an etiquette teacher. Sometimes, when faced with a problem, the best thing to do is sit still and reflect.
The answer was delivered to me recently, which is why I have been writing less and reflecting more to make sure that I am making the right decision. For years, I was repulsed by the thought of using titles and style to push my message. My idealism had me passing out free copies of my first book to random strangers in Fort Collins even though I was living at a mission with nickles in my pockets believing that people will gravitate to the message instead of focusing on the messenger. I now realize that my idealism is a fool’s errand.
The answer was within me all along, my lineage to Ethiopia’s greatest Emperor, Atse Tewodros, could have given me a bit more gravitas and allowed me to break through the echo chamber that drowns out serious conversations. Yet the thought of claiming to be “royal” stuck in my craw; my father raised me to be about merit and to never depend on the legacies of my forefathers. However, a friend recently convinced me that I don’t have to reside at either extreme, that I can embrace my lineage while standing on my own work. In a lot of ways, as evidenced by the streams of articles I’ve published over the past couple of years and the way I spoke about my roots in this video below, I’ve always drawn strength from my ancestors.
To this end, I am formally renouncing the role of journalist, which I always had a problem calling myself to begin with. As of this morning, I accepted the position of Chairman of the Ethiopians for Constitutional Monarchy. The objective of this organization is to look back in order to move my birth land Ethiopia forward. However, as an American, I am deeply vested in the plight of the least among us right here in the United States. So as I advocate for Ethiopians, I will concurrently be advocating for justice in America and wherever injustice is present throughout the world.
I will have decisions to make about Ghion Journal over the coming days. Betty Beke and I have run ourselves to the ground standing up a news source that is respected by a growing audience of readers who love our brand of truth seeking. I know I can’t wear two hats at once; I can’t report news while seeking to make news through my advocacy. As I contemplate the next steps, I at least wanted people to know where things stand at the moment so that our audience can make an informed decision as they read our articles.
I will not stop writing nor will we shutter the Ghion Journal, my aim over the coming days is to figure out how to keep the Ghion Journal as a respected news source while making sure that there are enough firewalls put in place so that the Ghion Journal doesn’t become a de facto public relations arm of Ethiopians for Constitutional Monarchy. Again, I take journalism very seriously and I want to make sure I do not serve two masters only to end up failing both. If this requires that we bring on an independent editor to take over day to day duties and I implement strict guidelines that will not allow me to influence the views of my fellow writers at the Ghion Journal, I will do what is needed to safeguard this publication that is beloved and trusted by many.
In making this decision, I know I have just placed a target on my back and that I’m also placing my family into an environment that invites antipathy at the least. At the worst, I know that I’m courting the same menace that has encountered countless change agents who chose to pick up their cross only to be nailed to them by the establishment. In all honesty, I am shocked that I have not garnered a coordinated campaign to vilify me through aspersions and character assassinations. Lord knows I have done enough foolish things in the past, events taken out of contexts and decisions that I made that were unwise could paint me in the most unkind light. I expect that day to arrive, that is the reason I wrote this letter to my future detractors a few months ago.
When that hour of demonization arrives, I ask you, the public jury, to ask critical questions and consider the sources, their profit motives and their agenda as they sling poisonous arrows at my direction. I am prepared for the onslaught. I say this to my would be defamers, bring it! After sleeping under trucks in South Carolina to escape the cold drizzles of March and calling shelters and missions my home in Nashville, Des Moines, Fort Collins and Wellington for two years, my spine has been steeled for this moment. No weapon formed against me shall prosper, this is my daily prayer as much as it is my motto. However, I feel moved to say this to those who sharpen axes hoping to gain through my misfortune. Before you pick up that pen to raze someone you’ve never talked to, I ask you to look into your heart for you too shall be measured as you measure me.
Another article will be forthcoming soon where I will announce the full detail of Ethiopians for Constitutional Monarchy. I am very aware that this might smack of elitism to some, I don’t blame anyone for thinking this as I myself would have judged to that effect from the outside. The work will be up to us as an organization to prove that we are worthy of support and to show our value apart from the status quo. The work starts today. I pray that I’m making the right decision. Above all, I pray for my birth land #Ethiopia, my new home America and humanity as a whole. #Ethiopians4CM Click To Tweet
Yours in Service,
Lij Teodrose Fikremariam
Ethiopians for Constitutional Monarchy
Who We Are
Originally from Ethiopia with roots to Atse Tewodros II, Lij Teodrose is a former community organizer whose writing was incorporated into Barack Obama's South Carolina primary victory speech in 2008. He pivoted away from politics and decided to stand for collective justice after experiencing the reality of the forgotten masses. His writing defies conventional wisdom and challenges readers to look outside the constraints of labels and ideologies that serve to splinter the people. Lij Teodrose uses his pen to give a voice to the voiceless and to speak truth to power.
Latest posts by Lij Teodrose Fikremariam (see all)
- Who is there for Us? When Suffering and Hopelessness Give Way to Tribalism and Hatred - May 26, 2019
- Judge Not… - May 16, 2019
- Why I No Longer Fight for Justice - May 9, 2019