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Letter: Small Price to Pay for Freedom

To the Editor:

The juxtaposition of your editorial “Uninvited Guests” (May 17) and the front-page article the same day on efforts by Wolfeboro officials to force the resignation of the Wolfeboro police commissioner (“Leaders: N.H. Police Official Should Quit”) was striking and ironic. The editorial concerned pressure from student and faculty activists at prominent academic institutions that had forced distinguished, accomplished graduation speakers to withdraw.

The police commissioner was being pressured to resign because of ugly remarks he made about President Obama that were overheard in a restaurant in Wolfeboro. In both cases, the thought police want to punish and silence anyone who has anything to say that does not comport with their “correct” view. In the Wolfeboro case, it is also a reminder of behavior in Nazi Germany, communist East Germany and endless other totalitarian regimes where citizens were encouraged to spy on each other and report on any conversation incompatible with government doctrine. So now we have spies and commissars in Wolfeboro.

Unfortunately, academic institutions have, for the most part, failed to convey to recent generations that our right to freedom of speech is a very special privilege. Europe does not have it. (Anyone old enough to remember Brigitte Bardot?) Tolerating ugly language and offensive remarks is a very small price to pay for this freedom, which is truly the cornerstone of our democracy.

I wish the police commissioner had stood his ground, rather than resigning. He could have been removed by the normal elective process if that had been the will of the majority of voters.

Richard Chapman