In an essay on the free trade of ideas, the writer Gilbert Chesterson
correctly estimated: “People generally quarrel because they cannot argue.” Seventy-five years have not dimmed the importance of Chesterson’s distinction, nor should they. In a society where free speech is habitually preached, but seldom exercised, it has become large-scale truth to accept the figment of expression before its physical reality is harnessed. The consequences are often damningly evident; quarreling – egregious and private – can surpass argument as a means of dissension. This is wrong.
Long before the advent of a University wide e-mail system, the pages of this publication served as an argumentative middle ground where ideas and concepts were discussed and debated. Though electronic conferencing has often taken the place of the well written letter to the editor, the private chat or closed door discussion carries little of the weight of a publicly stated dissertation on an event or policy. The Maine Campus’ opinion section exists solely to promote this public forum; unfortunately, like free speech itself, it too often stands merely as a prop – circumvented and discarded.
The Maine Campus frequently allows the illusion of monopoly: When there is only one paper in town, there is only one opinion in town. But this illusion is dangerous, and misguided. Although the paper’s editorial board monitors the content of each section, letters to the editor are, and will continue to be the free property of the staff and students at UMaine.
There is no more poignant place to levy criticism or praise of an opinion, policy or story than within the pages of the publication that printed the offending copy. This is your student newspaper. But this is also your soapbox. Complain and commend in a constructive fashion. Let your voice be heard. Freedom of speech is a right that should be cherished and exercised, and there is no better place within the confines of Orono to promote your opinion, than within our pages.