Letter: Freedom of expression is an American virtue

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Thank you to Edgar Allen Beem for reminding us about the history of Francis Scott Key and the third stanza of “The Star-Spangled Banner” (“The Universal Notebook: Oh, say can you sit?”).

In our current political climate of extreme polarization, Beem states that our beloved democracy, which our veterans fought for, heralds dissent as patriotic. Indeed, Maine’s own Margaret Chase Smith stated, “The right to criticize; the right to hold unpopular beliefs; the right to protest; the right of independent thought. The exercise of these rights should not cost one single American citizen his reputation or his right to a livelihood … Otherwise none of us could call our souls our own.”

We should not seek to take away rights of expression for those who may not hold our own views. Our Democracy, foremothers, forefathers, and veterans, deserve as much. What we don’t want is a nation where people are afraid to speak up or take a stand. Let us remember the inscription of a poem by Pastor Martin Niemoller at the New England Holocaust Memorial in Boston:

“They came first for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up, because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up.”

Jen Rohde