Casting a Wide Net

Freedom of speech is essential to resolve the issues facing our nation today. 

Some of us were raised not to talk politics or religion in polite company. 

Not me. 

Some time ago, I submitted a column to this newspaper that contained the word “snowflake” in its political context. The column was accepted but without that word. 

I objected and had a conversation with the editorial staff about the use and impact of certain terms that have the effect of stopping communication rather than encouraging it. 

It is amazing how new salient information can give you a broader perspective and often lead to a change of mind.

I welcome the opportunity to share opinions with others because I find that comparing them often leads to a fuller understanding of what is involved in the issue. That takes practice, patience and even courage; but mostly practice. Such discussions are needed—are essential—to develop the public opinion and support necessary for resolution.

Winston Churchill put it this way: “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”

The First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States says: “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

Most of the discussions about our Constitution concern the rights of the people, but little attention is devoted to a phrase found in our Declaration of Independence: “That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

In other words, the government was not created to give us these rights. We created the government to protect them.

We elect Congress to represent us. They write the laws that govern us. The president is elected to see that the law is executed. Congress and the president choose the members of the Supreme Court, who determine the constitutionality of any contested law.

As citizens, we have responsibilities as well as rights. If our legislators write laws we are dissatisfied with, we need to let them know why we object and what we suggest instead. If my interaction with my legislator is insufficient, I need to identify the issue and discuss it with my friends and neighbors to come up with a solution to propose.

We the people of the United States must respect one another’s rights, must talk over our differences instead of over each other, must agree to disagree when necessary, and must stand united in the face of adversity, even of our own making. 

That is what makes America great. It is the only thing that ever has. 

Frank Slater, retired math teacher and Korean War veteran, lives in Vaughn.

A View From Here
A View From Here