First Amendment needs support

Staff Writer
Woodford Times

The Peoria Times-Observer Web site has been on fire lately with comments from readers.

Readers have responded to the stories on “Blacktop Reform.”

The story, “Shipp leads school from ‘zoo to pocket of excellence’” drew 54 responses as of March 1.

One response was, “There will never be a retraction or a bad thing written about her because everyone is afraid of her. I really wish I knew what she had on everyone to make them afraid to write the truth about this evil, horrible, woman. For example, I have talked to several people and asked them why they didn’t write anything about her on here and everyone had the same answer, ‘I am afraid of what she will do or have done to me.’”

Not exactly enlightening, but it was an honest and heartfelt comment.

The reader-submitted opinion piece, “What exactly is Dunlap teaching our children?” drew 47 responses as of March 1.

Michelle Tyler, a Dunlap parent, took on the Dunlap School Board for its decision to expel some students for drug and alcohol infractions. Tyler felt the board went too far.

She expressed her opinion in a strong way that rubbed most commenters on the Web site the wrong way.

Tyler has been the recipient of some harsh comments.

One commenter said, “Now go take a hit off that bong and chill out.”

Some of the comments have been less than nice, but no one has crossed the line.

But, one comment did stand out. It was disturbing. It was also in response to Tyler’s opinion piece.

The comment was: “Really Michelle? This (the discussion on the Web site) and you are out of control. To think you would even risk saying these things in print is beyond me.”

Let that last part sink in: “To think you would even risk saying these things in print is beyond me.”

What a truly sad comment.

Why should anyone think Tyler is risking anything by speaking her mind?

This is the United States. This is the nation where the freedoms of speech and press are still alive and well.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances,” reads the First Amendment.

But, it seems some of Tyler’s neighbors would prefer she shut up, toe the line and keep her thoughts to herself.

That line of thought does not belong in a nation founded on freedoms like the ones in the First Amendment.

Freedom of speech means minority opinions are going to be expressed. They should be welcomed.

Those of a different mindset do not have to embrace minority views or respect them.

But, a comment like, “To think you would even risk saying these things in print is beyond me,” is frightening from an enlightened person.

It is because of sentiments like this one that the framers of our nation specifically laid out the freedoms enumerated in the First Amendment.

More power to you, Michelle Tyler. Keep expressing minority opinions. Keep challenging the status quo.

And, more power to those who are defending the majority view. Defenders of the majority view are just as important as those expressing the minority view.

Freedom is served by those who are willing to vigorously challenge the status quo or defend it, not those who blindly follow it.