In last week’s “From the Right,” Dustin Gilbert advocates the censorship of prisoners and their art. I would like to ask him and you, the reader, a question. Could we imagine a world in which Martin Luther King Jr. or Nelson Mandela had their voices silenced while imprisoned? We would have lost the inspiration of “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” and the education of Mandela. Could we hope for a world in which the millions imprisoned by Stalin and Hitler were able to express their opinion?

They, too, are political prisoners – but only when judged in hindsight by a different political sphere. They committed treason, incited riots, used violent force and were convicted according to ‘just’ law.

That we are unable to distinguish between the rightly and wrongly convicted is recognized by our justice system.

Thus, we must grant all prisoners the same rights.

It is unfortunate this point has been ignored by the recent columnist, Dustin Gilbert. He offers dull comments and undeserved congratulations to USM for banning the artwork of Tom Manning.

Mr. Gilbert also appeals to the families of the victims to stir the reader’s emotions and make us think, “Well, I would be offended too!”

He is missing the central point about freedom of speech. Freedom of speech is not meant to protect the sensitive and the grieving from opposing opinion. It is meant to protect the words and thoughts of the oppressed and the disenfranchised, including prisoners.

He blabbers on, “No university…should ever glorify a man behind bars, no matter what his sentence.” This offers the same harsh judgment to repeat traffic offenders, shoplifters, high school pot dealers and murderers.

If you call on God to be the final judgment, She would probably ask you to relax and let those who have committed crimes be judged by Her, not you.

One final question, one final request. If this is a compassionate Republican what can we expect from other Republicans? Vindictive condemnations? Compassionate censorship?

We are responsible enough to make our own decisions as to what we would like to view and what is important to us.

We enjoy our freedom of speech, as well as our freedom to observe.

The Republican Party’s impulsivity to control the voice of individuals is indicative of its lack of self-assurance and a failing power base. The people of the United States would like Mr. Gilbert and his party to stop intruding on the free market of ideas with governmental oversight, intrusion, and censorship.

Raviv Ramdial

Former USM student

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