Observations

By Michael A. Szymanski

This week we are publishing various “Letters to the Editor” containing diverse opinions on matters of interest to our readership. Freedom of Speech is a sacred right, especially to those of us in the newspaper business, but that freedom comes with responsibility. There is a popular expression that goes: “The right to swing my fist ends where your nose begins.” It’s an expression of personal rights that means you are free to do as you wish as long as you do not negatively affect another person against their will. In expressing ourselves, we should always strive to do so responsibly. It can be difficult when dealing with controversy to balance the need to foster a responsible exchange of ideas with the desire to avoid offensive, needless or unproductive argument, infighting or name-calling. I always hope for each side of a controversy to be expressed respectfully, to consider the validity of disagreement, and ultimately to respond with substance and / or acceptance that an agreement is not practical. We can always “agree to disagree” on some things, but that should not prevent attempts to solve problems or to work together to improve things. We must all accept the consequences of our own actions and decisions.

It was extremely gratifying to see the coverage of the Summit of Nobel Laureates that recently concluded in Chicago. Lech Walesa, Jimmy Carter, Mikhail Gorbachev and the Dai Lai Lama were among the dignitaries that participated. If Gorbachev can work in concert with Walesa and Carter, we all should be able to work together. Thanks to Mike Smith for his insider’s view of the proceedings. I note that in the news section of this week’s issue, the coverage of the Nobel Laureate Summit acknowledges that another Nobel laureate, Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, could not attend the summit because he is currently serving an 11 year prison sentence in China.

Ironically, the delicate balance of American / Chinese relationships is currently being tested by the matter of Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng who escaped from Chinese authorities and is seeking asylum in the U.S., according to recent news reports. Guangcheng is a blind, self educated Chinese lawyer and rights activist who was apparently arrested and served four years in prison for exposing acts of local officials leading to forced abortions. Reportedly, Chinese people are following his story through social media, and the Chinese government is trying to suppress the flow of information by restricting communications by twitter and the like. The U.S. and China are trying to reach a resolution of the matter to avoid embarrassment and allow a scheduled visit to Beijing by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to proceed smoothly. Coincidentally, we have the story in this week’s news section that a reception at the new Washington residence of Polish Ambassador to the U.S., Robert Kupiecki, was attended by Secretary of State Clinton, who also has a residence in the neighborhood. The Polish Ambassador’s home is situated on the exclusive Embassy Row, a neighborhood which houses many embassies, including that of Great Britain, as well as the Hillary Clinton home. Everything seems interrelated this week!

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