We live in a unique nation of differences

Amber Waterman/Sun Journal

"What I said was taken out of context," Lewiston Mayor Robert Macdonald said Tuesday night during a City Councilors meeting where he attempted to clarify his earlier remarks that aired in September on the BBC. "Anybody could have said to me, 'What do you mean by that?' But they didn't."

We citizens have a guaranteed constitutional right to free speech, which means government cannot abridge the people’s opinions in thought or in speech.

It’s the foundation upon which this country was built, and from which all other rights extend.

If we believe that our government is a government of the people, conversely that means that our government officials have protection from “we the people” infringing on officials’ free speech.

Right?

That’s the dramatic irony about the dustup over Mayor Robert Macdonald’s recent comments regarding immigrant culture and American assimilation.

Citizens in this country proudly enjoy the right to free speech, but some among us don’t want that right to extend to Macdonald? Why not?

He’s a citizen. We’re the government. If “we the government” demand he keep quiet on matters some of us may not agree with, aren’t we in violation of the very constitutional protections we hold so dear?

We are.

Should Macdonald be forced to resign? For speaking his mind? Absolutely not.

He made no oath of political correctness, nor does the city charter have a recall provision to remove him from office.

Morever, as Council President Mark Cayer so appropriately and heartfeltly pointed out on Thursday, that charter doesn’t give any councilor or the mayor more power to voice his or her opinion than any other person. The mayor, while representing his constituents in Lewiston, doesn’t speak for them or for his fellow Council members.

“Like any individual councilor,” Cayer said, “the mayor’s comments and beliefs are his own.”

Like it or not.

Do we wish the mayor had polished his thoughts about immigrant residents of Lewiston before presenting them? And then repeating them?

Absolutely. We believe his comments were unfortunate and we hope he will, if he has not already, reconsider the meaning of culture and how his remarks — any remarks — are interpreted by others. He is, after all, the top elected official in Lewiston and people look to him for guidance and understanding.

But, no matter what others may think of what he has said, he has the right to say it. And plenty of people have thanked him for doing so.

Our constitutional protection to free speech doesn’t guarantee our words have to be politically correct or even kind. We don’t have to agree with every spoken word. We don’t have to like another person’s opinion. We don’t even have to like the person making the utterance.

We do, however, have to respect every person’s right to speak. If we don’t, we risk eroding our own personal protections to do the same.

“We are a diverse group with many different philosophies,” Cayer said of the City Council, a sentiment that applies to humankind.

“As we move forward,” he said, “it is vital that we consistently act upon the fact that people are people. Period. There is no room for separations of “us” or “them.” Here in Lewiston, it is important that we be known as a united community, a group of people working together for the benefit of all of us.”

Well said.

And, if there’s action to be taken here, it is not resignation. It is confrontation about what makes this community great and what we must do to make it better. What makes the people who live here valuable and what we can do to improve our lot. And, perhaps most importantly, what we want the world to think of us.

This is a unique community filled with good people.

Let’s celebrate that and proclaim it to the world.

jmeyer@sunjournal.com

The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and the editorial board.

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Comments

CRYSTAL WARD's picture

Do we all have free speech ?

It is amazing how exercising free speech can get you called a socialist, I will not resort to name calling but will state that as a patriotic, American and defender of free speech I will speak up -- I guess free speech is a basic freedom for just the few who agree with the Mayor. That words hurt others are OK as long as they do not hurt YOU. If people want to exercise their free speech to oppose the Major is that OK ?? If they want to sign a petiton is that OK? It is VERYAmerican to speak up and sign petitions. Under my right to free speech I will again suggest that Mayor MacDonald learn that WORDS HURT and if he hurts people they can use their free speech to call him on it .Freedom of speech is wonderful but it works for both sides of a debate. Mayor MacDonald can speak out but he can expect the people to speak up also.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Freedom of speech in no way

Freedom of speech in no way guarantees you an audience, nor does it guarantee that your speech will not hurt, offend, or insult those who happen to hear your words. If I have the right to say what I want, you have the right to deal with it in any way you wish, except to attempt to silence me. The last two sentences of your post were precise in their message.

RONALD RIML's picture

Crystal Ward does have the right to attempt to silence you.

The Government does not.

Therein lies the protection of the 1st Amendment.

CRYSTAL WARD's picture

Do we all have free speech ?

It is amazing how exercising free speech can get you called a socialist, I will not resort to name calling but will state that as a patriotic, American and defender of free speech I will speak up -- I guess free speech is a basic freedom for just the few who agree with the Mayor. That words hurt others are OK as long as they do not hurt YOU. If people want to exercise their free speech to oppose the Major is that OK ?? If they want to sign a petiton is that OK? It is VERYAmerican to speak up and sign petitions. Under my right to free speech I will again suggest that Mayor MacDonald learn that WORDS HURT and if he hurts people they can use their free speech to call him on it .Freedom of speech is wonderful but it works for both sides of a debate. Mayor MacDonald can speak out but he can expect the people to speak up also.

Steve  Dosh's picture

We live in a unique nation of differences

. .ed. 21:00 hst 12.10.05
Good editorial ?
Lincoln had a lot to say about stuff like this . .including , " Government of the people by the people and for the people." One might add , " and the average I Q of the poeple is 1 0 0 , by definition . 1 / 2 will be smarter . 1 \ 2 dumber . " " Better to be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt. " ( also Lincoln)
Choose wisely or they win
The right to free speech doesn't include putting people down or slander . We forget what Mac said or why he said it ( heaven only knows - don't remind us LSJ ® ;) , and don't kick him out for simply putting his foot in his mouth again , yet , freedom and responsibility go together hand in glove . He's your mayor and the tallest hog at the trough , as it were . We are the victims of our choices . oui , Loystone ? Maybe he'll run for Governor next ? Senator ?
Lastly , ( and from A Mad Tea Party ), " `Come, we shall have some fun now!' thought Alice. `I'm glad they've begun asking riddles ,' she added aloud. `Do you mean that you think you can find out the answer to it?' said the March Hare.`Exactly so,' said Alice.`Then you should say what you mean,' the March Hare went on. ". .and mean what you say . /s Steve

AL PELLETIER's picture

LOL, Steve

Your Lincoln quote of "Better to be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt" instantly conjured up a picture of our illustrious governor.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

The only thing the right to

The only thing the right to free speech doesn't guarantee is an audience. If a hippy can set an American flag afire (too bad they don't wrap themselves in it before lighting it off), one can certainly put people down and slander if they so choose. If Harry Reid was allowed to tell the blatant lie that he told about Romney not paying taxes for 10 years, Mayor Macdonald is pretty well within the guidelines of propriety with his remarks. Free speech is free speech. YOU don't have to like it, but HE gets to say it.
BTW, your continual school yard reference to Lewiston as Loystone, although you have every right to say it, puts you down one rung on the ladder of likeability each and every time you say it. Just sayin'.

AL PELLETIER's picture

oBAMa??

Just sayin'.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Registered trademark. One of

Registered trademark. One of us will probably receive a letter from the USOC telling us we can't use it because it infringes on their rights of franchise. Just sayin'.

Bob Stone's picture

Let's indeed celebrate free speech

Ever since this confrontation blew up, I have been thinking along the lines of Judy Meyers editorial above. What about free speech? I congratulate the Sun-Journal for standing for our most basic right as American citizens.

Over the next 13 months, the activists that are exercising their right to free speech in calling for Mayor Macdonald to resign should find a strong candidate for mayor, raise some money for a campaign, and persuade the majority of Lewiston's voters to vote for someone other than Bob Macdonald. We live in the United States of America, and that is the way we run our country.

Steve  Dosh's picture

. . and after all , the L S J

. . and after all , the L S J ® is The Fourth Estate ( a good one at that :)
ref : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Fourth_Estate
btw - What do these folk http://www.twincitytimes.com have to say about all this ?
h t h ? /s Steve

CRYSTAL WARD's picture

No absolute freedoms

There are no absolute freedoms -- not even speech-- If I speak an untrue statement about you and it does harm --you could sue me for slander. If you present a clear and present danger to others with your words you can be arrested. if you incite a riot with your word you could be arrested. There are many times that spoken word ,like verbal harassment can get you in a court of law.
Mayor MacDonald needs to learn the civil right lessons children are taught -
WORDS HURT !!!!-------We no longer live in a world of "sticks and stones will break your bones but words will never hurt you"

MARK GRAVEL's picture

According to your definition,

According to your definition, government is hurting me when officials say I don’t pay my fair share of taxes. Government is singling me out for begin different – that hurts, that is not fair, words hurt.

Bob Stone's picture

Free Speech is Fundamental

Some percentage of the population may be "hurt." Others may ardently agree with the Mayor. This is not the classroom, and you don't have the right to tell Mayor Macdonald what he needs to learn, especially the world as viewed through your socialist prism.

Free speech is a basic right. There are other laws controlling behavior such as harrassment, slander, inciting to riot, etc. I hope you understand that concept. It's your right to attempt to deceive. It's my right to call you on it.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

And you did it quite handily,

And you did it quite handily, Mr. Stone....thank you

Very well Said

Remember Politically correct speech is not the same as freedom of speech.

Steve  Dosh's picture

. .Right Mike, - or

. .Right Mike, - or politically incorrect for that matter . ..
In general , truth doesn't have a lot to do about good or bad . Facts are simply facts . Try to deny them . It may quickly be come an unscientific discussion . e.g., Romney was born in Panama ( fact ) , Obama - Hawai'i ( also fact )
Politicians often say what they want simply to get elected or to hear their own voice . They are free to do so rightly or wrongly
Ted Kennedy strongly believed in the principle "never let the perfect be the enemy of the good," [ Voltaire ] and would agree to pass legislation he viewed as incomplete or imperfect with the goal of improving it down the road. In April 2006, Kennedy was selected by Time as one of "America's 10 Best Senators".
Mayor Mac is no Ted Kennedy
/s Steve

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

"Mayor Mac is no Ted

"Mayor Mac is no Ted Kennedy"
Very true. There is no record of Mayor Mac ever having been responsible for the death of an innocent young girl, and never having spent a single night in jail for his behavior.

RONALD RIML's picture

I would contend the world is much better off

for the presence of Ted Kennedy than for Mayor Mac, Paul St. Jean, or Ronald Riml......

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

I'm not the one who brought

I'm not the one who brought up Ted Kennedy's name. My statement was in response to an inane post that happened to place Ted Kennedy's and Mayor Mcdonald's names in the same sentence with the intent of deriding Mayor Macdonald.
Kennedy's contributions to the betterment of the world are arguable; the accuracy and factual content of my statement are not.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Ronald, Yes, Ted Kennedy

Ronald,

Yes, Ted Kennedy served as a life example:

1. Alcoholics can hold a career.
2. You can get away with murder if you are well connected.
3. Money and power makes one arrogant.
4. Crime does pay – reference to bootleg family wealth.

Ted Kennedy is a model for all – NOT.

Paul St. Jean has more class in one hair than Ted Kennedy accumulated in a lifetime.

Perhaps you and Ted have something in common?

RONALD RIML's picture

Here are 54 pages of Ted Kennedy's accomplishments.

Senator Kennedy has authored more than 2,500 bills throughout his career in the United States Senate. Of those bills, several hundred have become Public Law. Below is a sample of some of those laws, which have made a significant difference in the quality of life for the American people.

ACCOMPLISHMENTS OF SENATOR KENNEDY - 1962-2009

Mark Gravel's above posting should remind us not to fall into the trap eerily warned by the words of Shakespeare's Mark Antony: "The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones"

MARK GRAVEL's picture

How many laws did Hitler

How many laws did Hitler enact?

The takeaway here is not to focus on Hitler, but to state the number of laws one man enacts does not make him a good and moral man.

Andrew Jones's picture

I was wondering how long it

I was wondering how long it would take for someone to bring up Hitler.
Godwin's law in action!

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Now you can sleep easy and

Now you can sleep easy and wonder no more.

RONALD RIML's picture

Ah - but you didn't use the link.....

I didn't merely state the number of Laws, but also included a link for the intellectually curious, which rewarded that person with all 54 pages.

You obviously didn't qualify.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Unfortunately I am busy

Unfortunately I am busy grinding the bones of the poor and elderly to make my millions.

RONALD RIML's picture

And to apologize for your screw-up

on who I was responding to.........

MARK GRAVEL's picture

I'll verify when time

I'll verify when time permits. Just have a seat and drink some tea for the time being.

RONALD RIML's picture

Verify, Schmerify......

Neat trick when Paul's remark was at 12:10 and my response to you was at 11:58

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Okay, I’ll make your day. I

Okay, I’ll make your day. I concede to your point, and I apologize for mischaracterizing your opinion.

RONALD RIML's picture

I accept your apology.......

Thank you for going back over that mess and sorting it out. No gloating - I knew you were up to it.

RONALD RIML's picture

Now notice how your response 'indented' from my above post.....

That should give you some idea how the system works, Mark.

Some day you might get the grasp of it. Learn the basics first, and then attempt forensic debate.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

So you are saying we have to

So you are saying we have to lie, cheat, and steal to work the system?

Perhaps we should call that the ends justifying the means – a common liberal principle.

No thanks.

RONALD RIML's picture

So you blew it, and screwed up.

And don't have the common decency to admit your mistake and apologize.

But I still forgive you.......

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

The greatest obstacle a

The greatest obstacle a liberal faces each day is the truth. It is so difficult for some to accept.
Thanks for the kind words, though ill deserved they may be. 0O:-)

RONALD RIML's picture

As you and the Klan share hatred in common.

Enjoy your day.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Ronald, There you go again

Ronald,

There you go again injecting race into something that is unrelated. You similarly feel that Republicans cannot face the truth, but I don’t read Paul associating that comment with racism.

We can have different points of view without being racist, so you can just holster that liberal tactic of race baiting; it has now place here.

RONALD RIML's picture

Mark shuts his eyes to the forest for the trees.......

Don't believe for one moment that this entire thread/article/mayoral remark isn't based upon 'race'.

Who are you trying to fool?

I may have been born during the day, but it wasn't yesterday.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Ronald, There you go again

Ronald,

There you go again trying to defuse what you said.

Ronald Riml wrote the following in response to a comment by Paul: “As you and the Klan share hatred in common.”

This is a comment directed at Paul, not the general content of this article. You are trying to associate Paul’s comment with the Klan and therefore racism. That is disingenuous of you.

My comment specifically addresses your comment to Paul; again, not the general content of this article.

The only one trying to be a fool, sorry fool, the reader is you my friend. We are not buying it.

RONALD RIML's picture

Wake up and smell the Roses, Sunshine

Check the alignment on the remarks. It was in answer to your - Mark Gravel's - comment. Not Paul's.

It only followed Paul's answer to your comment chronologically.

Your ignorance in how this system works is no excuse for your feigned outrage.

Now go pretend you know something about computers and quite bothering we competent people........

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