Residents should not be silent out of fear of retribution

Posted: Friday, May 09, 2003

When I first read about the person who tossed a bucket of water at a group of war protesters, I wrote it off as a case of an overzealous father who let his feelings get the better of him. Surely, I thought, he would eventually come to his senses and realize how wrong he was. After all, this is America! Our democracy is predicated on the freedom, the necessity, to dissent.

Then I read that he had done it again, this time videotaping the event, an obviously premeditated act. Clearly, Mr. Webster was unrepentant. My level of concern rose. How could anyone possibly believe they had a right to assault another for expressing their opinion? Yet there it was.

What disturbed me was the support he received from several members of this my community. Support? My concern grew further. I was heartened, however, to read the many letters expressing opposition to Mr. Webster's acts.

Last week a friend told me of a reader who wrote a letter to the Clarion to express her concern over Mr. Webster's acts. She received several threatening messages on her answering machine. Concern became fear. Must we now remain silent for fear of retribution from those who disagree with us? Isn't that one reason the U.S. ousted Saddam?

I shared my feelings with a friend. She agreed that she, too, was afraid, but she convinced me that we must not succumb to it. When fear silences us, then we have taken a step down the slippery slope to totalitarianism. Hence, this letter. I urge all others who value freedom of speech and dissent to write.

And so, to the principals:

Mr. Webster, you are a most un-American American. You insult us all when you assert that attacking peaceful demonstrators with ice-cold water is "free speech." Following that logic, shooting them would be OK, too. After reading about your activities and your letter to the Clarion, I conclude that you possess neither the emotional stability nor the intellectual ability to ever comprehend that. I'm sorry that your brave

son will have to deal with the irony of coming home to the likes of you.

To his supporters: I urge you to consider the value of free speech to our democracy, regardless of how you feel about what is said. This has nothing to do with your position relative to the war in Iraq; it's about the freedom to express yourself. You believe in that, don't you? Please rethink what it means to be American.

To those who threaten: I am afraid of you, but know that your threats will never work. History shows us that people will sacrifice most anything to achieve or maintain their freedom. I won't let you take it away from me.

Marc Berezin, Kasilof

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