Letters to the Editor

Freedom of speech is freedom to criticize

Freedom of speech is often praised but seldom appreciated or understood. There have been some suggestions of late, especially with regards to the war in Iraq, that public speech should be uniformly supportive of the government policy and that to do otherwise is un-American at best and treasonous at worst.

Let me, without taking a position on the war, point out that limiting freedom of speech to only praise with regards to any governmental policy, even war (maybe especially war), is to make the entire concept of freedom of speech meaningless. If freedom of speech means only praise, then citizens of Mao's China, Stalin's USSR and Saddam Hussein's Iraq all enjoyed a precious freedom. You could have mounted a soapbox in Beijing, Moscow or Baghdad to sing the praises of the respective government without fear of reprisal.

The freedom of speech that counts the most is the freedom to criticize the government, especially when that criticism is unpopular. This is one of few real reasons why the United States deserves to be called a free country. To restrict speech simply because it is critical or unpopular is to actively move our country toward the position of China, the former USSR or Iraq prior to 2004.

DON STRACHAN

Modesto

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