In Defense of Free Speech

I write this letter in reference to Ms. Sharon M. Scott’s Letter to the editor, published in the October 2010 issue of “our neighborhood monthly.”  Her letter, which happens to take up about half the page, was titled, “The Highlander – A Beacon of Hate?” This title accurately reflects her sentiments since she concluded with: “I would, however, urge you to re-evaluate your position on inflammatory speech to prevent our community forum from becoming a beacon of hate.”
To preface this note, I will admit I am not a native “Highlander.” In fact, I only first read “your neighborhood monthly” two issues ago just in time to catch part one and part two of Carl Brown’s rap entitled, “MEET THE NEW BOSS, SAME AS THE OLD BOSS.” Personally, I was thrilled to turn the pages of the soft monthly over to see Carl Brown’s distinct face and read those familiar words ... The Plain Brown Rapper ... but now in version 2.0, no less! I liken it to the euphoria of catching up with a long lost friend after having just been thinking about them.  Oh how I missed OUR Rapper! Armed with facts and the courage to say what others will not. 
Ahh, an authentic truth teller if there ever was one, Mr. Brown writes con-sistantly thought-provoking columns. His opinions, whether you agree with them or not, are his own. Certainly not meant for the faint-hearted, but always writing with passion, intelligence and humor, ”LOUISVILLE’S (not just the quaint village of the Highlands) Plain Brown Rapper is unafraid to speak his truth. I admire that quality in a writer.  
Apparently, I am not alone in my respect for him. To quote OUR Congressman John Yarmuth, “Carl Brown has always been one of the most thought-provoking, as well as discomforting, commentators on American culture. His columns defy labels or characterizations because they arrive without baggage, each fully capable of attribution to a new and different writer.  It is that fresh approach to every issue that distinguishes the man we know as the Plain Brown Rapper.” 
Incidentally, Yarmuth has lived near River Road on Nitta Yuma practically from birth and I’ve never lived in the Highlands. But we read Carl’s opinions.  It seems we agree. Are we disqualified from First Amendment privilege by virtue of not being card-carrying members of The Highlander Club?
Personally, I value ... no, I treasure ... our country’s right to free speech. Thank heavens for the First Amendment and the freedom it alone brings us. Otherwise we would all be cookie-cutter versions of ourselves, living very uninteresting lives. Although neither Congressman Yarmuth nor I have ever lived in the Highlands, that does not keep us from reading, or furthermore, agreeing or disagreeing with, an article written in YOUR very own neighborhood monthly, The Highlander.  
Ms. Scott, here’s a thought: Having been a resident of St. Matthews for 28 years, the decades-long home of The Voice-Tribune, does that make the opinions written within that publication my views as well?  I certainly hope not. How dreadfully BORING. Variety is the spice of life, they say.  I enjoy reading a wide variety of publications for that very reason. I am not afraid to consider a point of view other than my own or my neighbors. It actually helps to expand, shape or – gasp! – even change my point of view occasionally. That is allowed, you know. In fact, it actually happens when you’re open to change and not living in absolutes. 
So now, Ms. Scott, the real reason for my writing this letter to the editor is this: Writers write their own opinions. The incredible thing about US is that we are also blessed with free will.  Read it or don’t. Like it or don’t. Just do not call Carl Brown a “Beacon of Hate.” He is anything but.  To insinuate Mr. Brown – or any writer for that matter – is responsible for another’s actions is simply ridiculous. Do you sincerely believe Mr. Brown would wish harm or encourage hate? You wrote that you rarely read Mr. Brown’s columns. How very obvious! Especially to those of us that have read more than one of them. Many, like myself, have had Carl Brown in our lives since the first publication of LEO in 1993.  I’ve read a great many opinions of his but none ever preached hate. Yes, I do agree with you – words can, will and SHOULD be very powerful. HATE is one of them. As is INTEGRITY, TRUTH and HONOR. Intelligence knows not what a neighborhood is! Neither does intolerance.  
To Carl Brown, I say this: Thank you for staying true to you. I dare say, most people do not have half the courage that you display time and again in all that you do, say and write. 
– Summer Thompson, St. Matthews