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Literature in a Hurry: Civility needed during heated debates

Kim Ukura

For the last several weeks, my Facebook page as practically exploded with political posts. I have a fairly balanced split between Democrats and Republicans, which keeps me feeling connected to different sides of important debates.

I try to keep my feed fairly a-political, except when it comes to football. It seems almost everyone agrees the replacement referees have been a major disappointment. At least there's one thing that we can all agree on (except, perhaps, Eric Bergeson).

The most distressing posts I've seen on Facebook in the last month have been from Morris friends and acquaintances who have had their political signs stolen or vandalized.

It's not really clear whether these incidences of vandalism are political or simply pranks, but either way it needs to stop.

Truthfully, I feel silly even saying this. Of course it's wrong to take political signs out of a neighbor's yard and destroy them. Strong feelings for or against a political candidate or on a political issue are no excuse for vandalism (nor is inebriated pranking or general tomfoolery).

That all seems so frustratingly obvious, but it at least, in part, points to a larger issue related to free speech.

The principles of the First Amendment - freedom of speech, religion, assembly, petition and, (my favorite) the press - are easy to agree with in theory, but often harder to support in practice.

It's difficult to let someone say something you disagree with or that you find offensive or insulting. When I was in college, our student newspaper published an opinion piece that compared a group I was affiliated with Nazis (based on a disagreement about a newspaper editorial, I believe). While I can think of few things more awful than being compared to genocidal maniacs, the person who wrote the piece had the right to say it.

We all have different tolerance levels for the things that offend us, but our tolerance doesn't dictate the free speech rights of others. It's as simple, and as difficult, as that.