Editorial: More speech



Mainers traditionally do not take differences personally. We all can learn from healthy debate.

Twice in the last two weeks, public assemblies in Bar Harbor have drawn complaints from those who would prefer to keep national politics out of public spaces here.

It’s understandable that some feel fatigue from the culture war salvos being fired on all sides, all the time. In public meetings and debates, it’s important to remember that not everyone is of the same mind. It’s helpful to frame questions and arguments in a way that can point to solution. It may be more productive to criticize a policy or a decision rather than a person. It’s a good idea to acknowledge the points where you agree with the other side, and look for flaws in your own arguments.

But none of that implies a request for individuals and groups to refrain from raising their voices. Social change sometimes requires a mix of policy papers and protest signs.

In our free society, a healthy response to speech one finds troublesome is not censorship. It’s more speech.

Last summer at the College of the Atlantic, experts in constitutional law reminded lecture audiences that it’s possible to separate a political opinion from a constitutional one. They reminded us that the American Civil Liberties Union defended the right of the National Socialist (Nazi) Party of America to march in Skokie, Ill., in 1977. And that wedding cake decorations are a form of speech that must not be compelled.

On Mount Desert Island, how about more parade floats from conservative groups? From libertarians? From folks seeking to limit immigration? Mainers traditionally do not take differences personally. We all can learn from healthy debate.

We’re grateful that both protestors and their critics speak up in these pages.