Free Speech

A couple of weeks ago, Steve Blow, a columnist for the Dallas Morning News, wrote about how attitudes have changed toward war protestors since right after 9/11. In that first year after the tragedy anyone who questioned the president and the war in Iraq was considered unpatriotic, and as Steve put it, “Back then, dissent was scarce.”

He went on to write, “I think most experts were as reluctant as journalists to appear unpatriotic by challenging the president’s plans too sharply.”

When I read that, I had to stop and read it again. Then again. Since when is it unpatriotic to exercise our right to freedom of speech? That is one of the great strengths of our country. That people can say what they think without censorship. Granted, sometimes that freedom is abused. Okay, maybe it’s abused a lot. But it is still a basic right that some people don’t enjoy in their countries.

Now that the war effort is floundering and President Bush’s approval rating is sinking lower and lower, suddenly it is okay to criticize him and the war in Iraq. But why wasn’t it okay last year or the year before?

I can remember the few brave souls back then who wrote letters to the editor in the Dallas Morning News and the New York Times questioning the invasion of Iraq. They stirred a barrage of letters from reactionaries who questioned their loyalty to America and their support of the troops. Somehow questioning the war was equated with not caring about the men and women in uniform.

But recent criticism of the war has not stirred the same response, and I can’t quite figure out why not. Unless it is because of the “tide of popular opinion.”

Some people seem more willing to ride that tide than others. And that’s too bad. Because we should really think for ourselves and not become sheep following the most vocal shepherd.

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