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April 12, 2011

Free Speech

Roy Meachum Editor John Ashbury related once again a conservative asking why he publishes my “liberal” columns. He answered, as always: he believes in free speech as set forth in the Constitution’s First Amendment. I agree.


Most of my colleagues on this website tend right, and I have no problem with that. They do not admire Barack Obama. Occasionally I feel a need to defend the president. He inherited a very sticky wicket, with indefensible wars and economy rapidly melting. That’s how I see it; several writers disagree furiously. There’s no which way this Democrat chief executive can please them.


For nearly 20 years, I did a column for the dyed-in-the-wool GOP George Delaplaine. My comments questioning – not attacking – Israel put George under the heat; he handled it. I never heard about the rhubarbs about my writings’ “anti-Semitism” until the attempts to fire me were long past. Only after he was no longer publisher of The Frederick News-Post was I canned, hired once more and resigned over an editorial decision that made no sense to me.


John Ashbury is a seasoned journalist who began in the business roughly five decades ago under George’s uncle; he’s worked for The Raleigh (N.C.) News & Observer and was with Baltimore’s Evening Sun before returning to the county. As I said, the first job after my Army discharge was with The Washington Post. It’s easy to remember the day I started. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s first inauguration, January 20, 1953, I toted Speed Graphic bags for Arthur Ellis.


We three were brought up in a time when presentation of the news had to be balanced; total objectivity lurks beyond human reach. There were not many columnists around. Walter Lippmann, Drew Pearson and their competitors were forced to arrange the facts right before offering commentary. In my view, there’s no such insistence now.


For the record, as a young man learned after church Sunday, I consider myself an “equal opportunity” political axe-man; the umbrage levels in my writings are elevated by politicians of both parties. The particular crime that metaphorically rockets me into furious space is when I discover someone using his official power to hurt people not capable of defending themselves. On my columnist’s watch, I accused Republican County Commissioner “Lennie” Thompson and Democratic Frederick City Mayor Jennifer Dougherty.


Otherwise, I usually disregard political prattling. My opinion settles on the human being I consider to be better equipped to benefit the community. I didn’t throw myself and my Democratic Party registration card across the tracks when Blaine Young delivered an entirely GOP slate to Winchester Hall; and I backed Republican Rep. Roscoe Bartlett in his first election nearly 19 years ago.


After all those Washington years, I accept electorates have minds of their own. Being raised in New Orleans where the Ku Klux Klan’s xenophobia fell flat, the county’s anti-immigrant mood makes me uncomfortable; and don’t give me the balderdash about the difference between “legals” and “illegals.” I grew up in the segregated South, partially raised by Uncle William, a former slave.


In Annapolis’ legislative session, the Frederick GOP brags about the county’s delegates voting against education for children whose parents’ papers are not up to federal snuff. I cry “Shame!” That’s the same dirty deed the Nazis committed on Jews, Gypsies and “lesser” cultures’ youngsters. In the cases of kids born in this country, no matter their parents’ status with immigration, that mentality robs official treasuries of future tax revenues.


My strong feelings about people newly arrived in this country are precisely why John Ashbury’s friendly acquaintances question editor publishing my opinions. There’s a whole lot of hating foreigners going on; I’ve written about it for years. The fact that the xenophobia has increased doesn’t make the hate right. It chiefly goes to demonstrate than in an atmosphere when many people are worried about their jobs, prejudices increase. I witnessed the same phenomena when I was a child, in the Great Depression.


With antecedents who arrived in the late 17th century, as bond servants, I can consider the overwhelming majority of Americans as newcomers, that is to say “immigrants,” many not legal in a narrow sense.


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