"I may disagree with what you have to say, but I shall
defend, to the death, your right to say it."
Across our nation -- from the West Wing, to the airwaves, to
Main Street America -- people are acting...well, nuts.
Our mass departure from sanity is showing up in myriad ways;
most visible among these is the virtual absence of anything
resembling rational discourse concerning the matters at hand.
The national hysteria began, of course, just hours after the
attacks in New York and Virginia when two television evangelists
made some unpopular (and not quite accurate, but thatís
another story) theological statements during their broadcast. On
9/17, comments made by a late-night network talk show host
concerning the comparative bravery or cowardice of the kamikaze
murderers of 9/11 caused a national uproar. Most recently, a
nationally syndicated columnist was dismissed from her position
as a contributing editor for National Review Online (NRO).
The writer has suggested that her firing was an attempt by NRO
to censor her incendiary columns of 9/13 and 9/20 (the columns
in question in part demand we "invade [the terroristís]
countries, kill their leaders, and convert them to
Christianity"). NRO has published much more
controversial pieces in the past, including a column advocating
the conquering and Westernizing of the entire continent of
Africa. The differences between NROís other, more
controversial pieces and the raw, emotional screeds of a writer
who lost a dear friend in the attacks on 9/11 were quite simply
the quality of writing and clarity of thought.
No one has a constitutional right to have her words published
in a national magazine. As any struggling writer will tell you,
publication is a privilege. Any columnist is free to say and
write whatever she wants to -- National Review is not
obligated to print it.
That said, careful editing probably could have prevented
certain parts of the writerís last few columns from being
distributed for public dissemination, and that would not have
been Ďcensorship.í The ideas would have come across nicely
even without some of the stronger language. But then again, thatís
all the articles were -- collections of words...strong ones,
perhaps, but nonetheless harmless -- that should not have badly
offended any rationally-thinking person.
The problem, of course, is that no one in this country is
thinking rationally anymore. From 9/11 until yesterday, the
American people had been without an adequate outlet for their
anger. In the absence of any identifiable, tangible enemy upon
whom we could have unleashed our rage, we turned against each
other. It hasnít been pretty.
The invective that floods the airwaves whenever a person
dares to utter a controversial word has frankly become tiresome.
It used to be that only the Left participated in such policing
of thought. Now, conservatives have climbed on the PC bandwagon,
only they have given it a new moniker:
While I support and love America for everything she was, is,
and will yet be, I question the validity of the prevalent
attitude that, "If you disagree with (the President, the
war, nuclear attacks, Islamís inherent peace, et al), then you
are Anti-American and want the terrorists to win." This
attitude is wrong, ridiculous, and borderline Orwellian.
In a free society, there must be room for differing opinions.
Whether or not our nation is at war is irrelevant. We are only
required as citizens not to commit treason with our words or
actions. We are not obligated to be cheerleaders.
Part of what makes this country wonderful is our
Constitutional right to criticize it without fear of
retribution. Right now, we seem to have suspended that right,
and it is troubling. Even upper-level Bush administration
officials like Ari Fleischer have publicly indicated support for
restrictions on speech during this war. The Kumbaya-singing,
give-peace-a-chance protesters may be silly and ignorant, but
when we allow them to be silenced, we invite the possibility
--indeed, the probability -- of our own silencing.
Regardless of perspective, the majority of Americans have the
countryís best interests at heart. Whether they believe the
United States should air-lift flowers and puppies to Osamaís
lair or nuke Asia entirely off the face of the Earth, American
citizens (and only citizens, mind you) have the right to
their individual opinions. On the day we rescind that most
fundamental of American rights, we will have become like the