by Sharon Robinson
As a First Amendment warrior, I fight for your right to speak all things hateful to my values. As a victim of malicious slander, I know the need for restraint. There are two sides to the freedom of speech on display in Virginia, but also two problems. The first is how to use harmful symbols which may offend, and the second is how to deal with hoodlums who use this difficulty as an excuse to offend.
The first, is that statues in the south represent to many the grandeur of a past transcending racism. Many of our cherished American values in architecture, food, music, religion and manners come from the Old South. The economy rode on the backs of slaves, and that should not be forgotten — slaves helped built the White House, after all.
Suppression of ugly facts does not lead to truth. Neither does ignoring or disguising facts. The Holocaust museums in Europe arouse horror, grief and determination to do better.
The problem here is that racism in America is not only a matter of history but part of the present. Symbols that can harm others should have a national dialogue for resolution.
Hoodlums descending on a town to spew offensive ideas with intent to bring violence is a separate problem entirely. It represents not a political party but just hatred to incite riot — this is criminal. Why should any of us, particularly the young, be subjected to such insult and ugliness? They slander those whom they find unworthy of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. They do not offer argument or proof but just harmful accusation and malice — that is a crime. We tend to criticize Muslims for not taking care of the thugs of ISIS claiming Islam affiliation. Well, what about us?
Are these groups just talkers or are they out to defame and destroy people and their property? In our own past, we outlawed the Communist Party when we believed they were in cahoots with forces wishing to overthrow our government and way of life. They did not confine themselves to just talking. Are not these white racists doing the same thing?
These are serious dangers threatening our rights. We have already lost much of our right to privacy. McCarthyism posed more of a threat to democracy than the original problem, communism. The horror of Pearl Harbor leading to mass internment is now seen as shameful racism against Japanese Americans. We must be vigilant, always, but that is no reason for any citizen to suffer public slander, or for our society to fear violence cloaked as free speech, a protected right! The final straw for those of us with WWII dads is to see Nazi trash and swastikas deface our land and honor.