Madison County Opinion...

MARCH 26, 2003


Column
By Frank Gillespie
The Madison County Journal
March 26, 2003

Frankly Speaking
Freedom of speech is vital to all other freedoms
Everyone has a right to free speech. No matter how wrong you are, you are free to say almost anything you wish. At the same time, everyone else has the right to refuse to listen to you, or the right to object to what you say.
First, let me remind you that many Americans, myself included, have served in this nation’s military partly to win and protect your right to speak as you please. As I write this, thousands of young Americans are fighting in Iraq to depose a brutal dictator who would deny us that right.
Therefore, I strongly defend the right of Natalie Maines, lead singer of “The Dixie Chicks” to make insulting remarks about our President. Our Constitution guarantees her the right to do that. At the same time, I strongly defend the right of country music fans to display their objection to her comments by writing to radio stations demanding the removal of Dixie Chick recordings from their play list, refusing to purchase their records or attend their concerts. She expressed her opinion and thousands of her former fans expressed their disapproval. That is the way it should be.
Movie producer Michael Moore used his Oscar acceptance speech to attack President Bush. In the aftermath of his statement, Moore has come under intense criticism, starting at the Oscar program where many in the audience expressed their disapproval with loud “boos.” Again, both sides were exercising their right of free speech.
Freedom of speech is vital to all other freedoms. I depend on that freedom every week when I write this column. I know that I can speak my mind, even if my ideas are controversial. As I have said many times, if the readers agree with everything I say there would be no need to write the column. That is why I welcome your letters criticizing my comments. Your right to free speech is just as important to me as my own.
Don’t worry when singers and movie stars start spouting off about things that they obviously know little about. They have the right to do so. If they offend you, simply exercise your right to object by not going to their movies, tuning out their TV programs or boycotting their music.
When politicians and mighty businessmen speak out against the ‘56 Georgia flag, they are within their rights. When the flag supporters protest by waving the flag in their faces, they also are within their rights.
When a baseball player makes stupid comments about an opposing team’s fans, he is within his rights. When fans from around the nation ridicule his statement, they are exercising their right of free speech.
We all have the right to express our opinions in any way we wish. We also have the responsibility to accept the consequences of our comments. That is the American way, and it is working very well.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His web page can be accessed at www.mcga.net. His e-mail address is frankg@mcga.net.

Column
By Margie Richards
The Madison County Journal
March 26, 2003

A Moment With Margie
A view of war from the
‘fence line’
Until Sept. 11 we, meaning my generation of 40 something’s and younger, were pretty lucky, maybe more lucky than we knew.
Time to wake up and face reality.
I’ve been “on the fence” about the war, able to see both sides of the argument for and against military action in Iraq. And while seeing both sides is often seen as a gift, sometimes it can be a curse too.
It’s been hard for me to argue with some of the images I’ve seen this week in war coverage “live and in my living room.”
One of the most vivid has been the image of Iraqi children standing on the side of the road, many holding their empty air-dropped food packets, waving to Americans.
It’s clear sanctions against the country have starved those who are most innocent, while Saddam has built gilded palaces for himself and thumbed his nose at the world, including his own people.
According to the “embedded journalist” reporting the story, many of our soldiers wanted to throw them their own food packets, but were discouraged by their superiors, who were afraid the children would hurl themselves at the army vehicles and be injured.
I have to say that I admire President Bush for doing what he feels to be right when it would be so much easier to “go along” with the U.N. and continue to wait for developments.
That and other things since the war began have given me pause.
That said, I have a hard time believing that we needed to go to war at this time and if I’m honest with myself, that’s mostly been out of fear.
I’ve been afraid that war with Iraq will bring on a furious onslaught of terrorist attacks here and further damage our relations with other countries around the world, who will have one more reason to see us a “bullies.”
I’ve also been afraid because I have a soon-to-be 18-year-old son.
All the young men in uniform look like my son to me. And I am afraid. I ask myself, are the principles of going to war that I can agree with, worth seeing my own son go to war?
As patriotic as I may feel, my answer to that is an absolute “no.”
So here I am, on the fence still about this issue and here is where I likely will stay. I don’t even feel that I’m wise enough to form a definite opinion on the subject.
But I can do some constructive things while I’m straddling this fence. I can support my fellow citizens who are over there fighting and dying, regardless of my personal reservations or beliefs. I can continue to try to give back to my community here, with needs that continue no matter what else is going on in the world.
I can pray to the One who is really in control. I can pray for those boys who look like my son, and for their families. I can pray that this effort will be over soon, with as little loss of life on both sides as possible. And I can pray that Saddam Hussein and others like him, will be driven from their reins of power, in whatever way God wills.
I don’t know how all this will turn out. The fact is, no matter how wise or knowledgeable any human being is, no one does know, except God.
That’s one thing I’m not on the fence about.
Margie Richards is a reporter and office manager for The Madison County Journal.

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