To have free speech, you must be tolerant

*To have free speech, you must be tolerant *Refugees must state loyalty to country *PETA exaggerate

To have free speech, you must be tolerant

I read Ann Townsend’s Nov. 24 letter (“Confederate flag is a symbol of hatred”) and have come to the conclusion that Ms. Townsend has a bit of a limited understanding of the First Amendment, and a loose grasp of the difference between fact and opinion.

Ms. Townsend, you state with apparent certainty that the Confederate flag is a symbol of hatred and racism, despite having no actual evidence to back such a claim. We call statements such as this “opinion,” and you are certainly entitled to your view. Please don’t present your opinions as factual evidence, though.

The Confederate flag, or stars and bars, was primarily a battle flag during the Civil War, and yes, also used as the governmental flag of the Confederate states. At no time was it the flag of slavery; to the best of my knowledge, no such flag exists. Yes, there was slavery in the South (and, in certain places in the North), and yes, the Confederate flag represented the South. Of course, if you want to ban everything that represents the South, you’d better get rid of Coca-Cola, the Everglades and bluegrass.

You talk about the shooter who draped himself in the Confederate flag when he shot nine black people, and use this as your “proof” that the flag represents racism. The flag didn’t shoot anyone, ma’am. He corrupted the flag to suit his needs, much as the KKK corrupted Christianity when it burned crucifixes on the lawns of blacks. Should we ban crosses, too? Where do we stop?

Anytime some lunatic perverts something to claim as his symbol for hatred or violence, do you want it banned? Will that change the bigotry and hatred in their hearts? Or is it OK that it exists, so long as you don’t see what you feel is a symbol of it? Ignorance is bliss, I guess.

Not too long ago, a university in Southern California wanted to ban the American flag from its campus, deeming it “offensive” to the “diverse student body.” If we are to kowtow to your view of the Confederate flag as being offensive, then we must also kowtow to the banning of the American flag, because someone finds that offensive. Freedom of speech and expression out, censorship in. When you say something or display something that someone else finds offensive, will you acquiesce and retract what you said, or take down your display?

You are free to view the Confederate flag in any way you want. That’s the beauty of America; you have the right to your opinions. It doesn’t, however, give you the right to force your opinions on others, or tell them that they can’t sell something because it offends you. That’s a slippery slope, and I have a feeling you’d react differently if someone told you to remove something from your front yard that offended them.

The idea that a flag — a piece of cloth — causes violence is ludicrous. He would have shot those people draped in the Confederate flag or wearing a tutu. Blaming the flag for his violent and bigoted attitude only serves to absolve him of responsibility. There are literally millions of people in the nation who own Confederate flags, and only a small percentage of them have ever killed anyone.

Of course, there have also been several murderers and mass murderers who own American flags, or can quote the Bible. Maybe we should just ban anything with any kind of symbolism.

Unless you’re willing to give up your own right to free speech and expression, you don’t get to demand that of anyone else.

Sean Mearns


Refugees must state loyalty to country

Lady Liberty was conceived as a Muslim.

In actuality, Lady Liberty was originally conceived by her sculptor, Frederic Aguste Bartholdi of France, as a peasant Muslim woman, to be located at the approach to the Suez Canal.

After being rejected by the Ishma Il Pasha of Egypt, he transformed her into Lady Liberty and settled on Bedloe’s Island, which is on the way to Ellis Island in New York Harbor.

That is why, while watching the news on TV shortly after the Paris bombing/shooting incidents, the interviewer was talking with a young Muslim woman who had recently emmigrated to the United States with a good share of her family.

She was quoting from the Emma Lazarus poem, “The New Colossus” which is on a plaque inside the base of the Statue of Liberty. It reads in part “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, and the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me; I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

And then the woman said, as if an afterthought, “I thought that is what America is all about,” or something to that effect. As I share these sentiments inscribed on that bronze plaque, I also think of struggles, bloodshed and sacrifices that made that possible.

This includes not only the soldiers, sailors and armed forces over the years, but also our patriots citiizens/citizen soldiers: Paul Revere, William Dawes, Dr. Joseph Warren of Boston fame and countless others who made a fledgling independent country possible. As I reflect on our American history and ideals and think of all the people from all walks of life who stepped up and made their contributions to make this country great and safe, I am genuinely conflicted.

I hear of as many as 10,000 suspected Muslim terrorists in France. The rest of the significant Muslim population in France or anywhere else in the world do not know of or have the courage to ”if you know or see something, say some thing.”

If any immigrants want to assimilate into any country, part of the price tag to citizenship should always include loyalty to that country. This would go a long way toward arresting the fears of other citizens and would give more credibility to any immigrants in any country.

George Jamack


PETA exaggerated treatment of turkeys

After reading PETA activist, Craig Shapiro’s Nov. 25 commentary, “Skip the turkey, try a vegan Thanksgiving” on the day before Thanksgiving, I am compelled to respond.

I have raised, cared for, processed and eaten turkey for over 50 years. As a farmer of this bird for many years, I have never witnessed the behavior that Mr. Shapiro’s article speaks of. While wild turkeys may appear to display “intelligence,” the many flocks we have watched almost daily on our farm forage for food, run or fly from predators, roost in any area that provides cover, and breed.

Domestic-raised turkeys display even less of these natural-born behaviors. No frolicking in the morning dew, no stroking each other’s feathers. Just eat, sleep, repeat, that’s it. And further, the brutal living conditions, maintenance procedures like debeaking, or the processing for consumption described by Mr. Shapiro are outright false. I doubt he uses painkillers when he cuts his finger or toenails. So, too, with the turkey beaks.

The processing procedure actually is respectful, humane and painless when done properly. It’s not the horrendous death fantasy Mr. Shapiro wants you to envision.

The human activities that are being associated with all types of animals a la Walt Disney does nothing but remove our children, and apparently, some adults, from the realities of life. Farm animals and wildlife are food commodities, just like lettuce and tomatoes. No one treats food animals with more care and reverence than the farmers who raise them.

Choosing to have a vegan Thanksgiving is one’s personal choice. To unfairly sensationalize the processes and demonize the millions who do consume meat to justify one’s lifestyle only demonstrates a narrow-minded view of reality. Frankly, it is irresponsible. I chose to educate my children to respect all animals and their purpose.

Our family enjoyed our humanely raised and processed turkey this Thanksgiving. And for knowing the real truth, I am truly thankful.

Paul Hasbrouck


Look at climate issue from the outside in

I’m writing in regard to the Nov. 30 guest column written by Russ Wege of Glenville, “Keystone decision won’t help environment.” Mr. Wege does a good job of listing a series of facts about the project, but is shortsighted in his conclusion by ignoring major issues about the Canadian Tar Sands.

He simply fails to understand the need for our nation, our world, to address climate change. He draws on his training as an engineer to compile facts. But as so many engineers do, he builds his conclusion from the “inside out,” from the details to a generalized result, and fails to include long-term possibilities.

My career was spent as an industrial designer, and I enjoyed my time working on a variety of complex projects with numerous engineering friends at GE, first as an employee and then as a vendor. My training instilled in me an “outside-in” approach.

When we deal with our planet, we need an “outside-in” approach. What will the conditions on our planet be at the end of the century? What will be the environment our grandchildren, and their children, face? What does the established science say about the current trajectory of CO2 [carbon dioxide] emissions? Do we need to decrease our dependency on fossil fuels? When do we need to make the major changes to fully embrace renewable energy?

Clean energy is what can help answer all the above questions, and the Canadian Tar Sands are not clean energy. No, not as bad as coal, but close. If the Keystone Pipeline encourages more Tar Sands, why approve it?

An excellent Web resource to understand the issues we face is Getting bogged down in near-term facts won’t preserve our planet. Let’s take an “outside-in” viewpoint, and value our future.

Don Cooper


Categories: Letters to the Editor

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