Free speech for me but not for thee

Published 1:03 am Thursday, August 25, 2011

Thomas Paine once wrote, “Reason obeys itself; and ignorance submits to whatever is dictated to it.”  When he wrote these words, he spoke primarily of the logical reasons upon which man ought to be informed and free and not ruled by the dictates of an entrenched elite. One could ably apply such words to some in our society today who would rather keep us woefully ignorant of the onerous actions of government, both locally and nationally, and instead keep us in a state of perpetual imaginary bliss. To this group, any deviation from the status quo or the regulatory functions of government should not be encouraged but rather stifled or at the least relegated to second-class status. And should such words be uttered on the behalf of a majority of the residents of a given locale, let us say Washington, all the more that the one speaking such words should be silenced.

As I read Sound Off the other day, I could not help but notice this attitude is indeed alive and well among a small group of folks in our community. There are those that object to my columns, not on the basis of them being poorly written, profane or otherwise morally objectionable, but rather because they seem to highlight the wrongs perpetrated on the populace by over-regulation, apathy and a sense of entitlement on the part of some. In other words, I do not conform to their opinions and, thus, present some sort of illusory threat to the status quo. Naturally, notions of free expression and diversity of opinions are lost on these folks, and that is a shame because the good people of Washington are often subjected to their personal tirades and pet peeves.

It has been stated that the tone of my columns is not upbeat. There is plenty to be upbeat about in life here in Washington, including a great community-oriented citizenry, wonderful waterfront, rich history and, most importantly, a diversity of opinions. This does not negate though that things downtown are not so upbeat. We are faced daily with a virtual ghost town, a regulatory burden second to none, high utility rates and pervasive apathy. But let’s not talk about these things because some people may view them as unseemly. Nonsense.

This mentality of free speech for me but not for thee must end. Those who may not like what they read are free to skip over what they find objectionable. Leave those alone who wish to be informed and read as they please. As William Faulkner wrote, “Read, read, read.  Read everything — trash, classics, good and bad — Read!”

Gary Ceres is co-owner of I Can’t Believe It’s a Book Store in downtown Washington.