The Freedom to Dissent

Some readers took exception to last month’s editorial that criticized President George Bush’s performance (see Letters). I admit it; I am not a fan. I did credit him for strong leadership during a critical period, but not enough to please all. In the months following 9/11, I pushed aside my concerns about his governance because it was a time for unity and solidarity.

More than a year has passed. Last month, Al Gore broke the national silence on Bush’s performance with uncharacteristic bluntness. He said Bush’s policies would “destroy the goal of a world in which states consider themselves subject to law.”

All manner of analyses and opinions are currently being aired during this election by candidates, reporters, and lay people, some of them even more critical of Bush. That is democracy at work. It is part of the wonderful tradition of free speech and public discourse that makes this country a model for the world.

What is it, then, about last month’s editorial that offends? That it was critical of the President? That it opposed his foreign policy? Or that it came from an immigrant?

Is it that we can tolerate only a certain narrow range of opinion from immigrants? The native born may engage in all manner of disagreement and debate, but why are the only acceptable opinions from immigrants gratitude, loyalty, and patriotism? Can’t an immigrant dissent?

Personally, I think Bill Clinton was a far better president than Bush. He may not have had the self-control we expect in presidents, but he did know to stay focused on the economy, to keep us from war, to stay engaged with the rest of the world through dialogue and treaties, and to enhance America’s stature in the world. I also admire Carter who sought to bring peace to the Middle East.

This publication has a long tradition of making space for points of view that differ from published editorials, letters, and articles. If you have a different point of view, stated thoughtfully, persuasively, and concisely, you can be sure it will find space in these pages.

I suppose this really goes beyond arguing over rights. It is deeper, and at some level, people’s feelings have been hurt. That is certainly not my intention. Love for America and love of this earth comes out in different ways. I hope we can see it in the other.

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