July 14, 2006
To The Editor:
I strongly encourage this community to collectively apologize to Bob Richard of Waitsfield. Mr. Richard is the gentleman whose letter to the editor detailed the tar and feathering he suffered at the hands of some Warren Fourth of July revelers.
It was disappointing to read about their disrespect of his property but more disappointing by far was their disrespect of his right to express an opposite political opinion. Freedom of Speech was trampled in Warren, Vermont, on the Fourth of July during a parade themed "The Sacrifice of Liberty."
The shameful truth is that there is precious little valuing of political diversity in our beloved Valley. We say we believe in free speech, but experience teaches there is a caveat -- we only believe in free speech if the speaker espouses the majority political view. There are, of course, individual residents who believe fully in free speech, no "take-backs." Most, though not all, have more conservative political views than the majority. We're not vocal because experience tells us our cars and our characters will likely suffer attacks similar to Mr. Richard's if we speak our minds. Lady Liberty weeps.
I never learned in school that my political views made me a bad person. Rather, I learned that "reasonable minds can differ" and that "it is how the majority treats the minority that defines democracy." Thomas Jefferson wrote, "The majority, oppressing an individual, is guilty of a crime, abuses its strength, and by acting on the law of the strongest breaks up the foundations of society." Those folks in Warren certainly broke Mr. Richard's heart -- you can hear it all over his letter. We who love freedom and despise hypocrisy must now act. "We must become the change we want to see in the world." --Mahatma Gandhi