Friday, May 8, 2009

Free speech

The Constitution must have been proudly on display the other night at Camden's Select Board meeting. Free speech was debated, specifically the right to conduct free speech on the Village Green.

It's wonderful how our most basic, and sometimes complicated, rights are discussed so openly and sincerely. This must happen in thousands of meetings across the country. We have an educated public. Opposition is both loyal and informed. That sometimes we get muddled up doesn't really matter - we'll debate again soon.

At issue in Camden was the local high school's chapter of Amnesty International and its wish to inform the public, on a Sunday in June, about the predicament in Tibet. After much debate, this was granted. The Board is not a liberal, pinko communist cell - they rejected the request of a group that wanted to read the entire list of soldiers killed in Iraq, accompanied by drum beats.

So a slight muddle. Why Tibet and not Iraq? Less noisy?

It seems to me that every group should have the right to congregate and inform in public, even in so peaceful a place as the Camden Village Green. They are innocent of vandalism, noise pollution, contrary opinion, swine flu, until proven otherwise. As the Police Chief said, "Where can people go if not a public space? And if you say no, and they do it, what do I do?"

Equal rights, gay marriage, free speech, enlightened police - what's next, universal health care?

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