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To the Editor: We are privileged to live in a constitutional democracy with a right to free speech. We have the right to exchange thoughts and beliefs with those with whom we agree, and I believe, the responsibility to listen to those with whom we disagree.

Recently, Democrats in the House of Representatives held a hearing questioning the right of cable companies to carry conservative news and opinion programming. Democrats have also been pressuring social media platforms to censor content and Amazon and other retailers to not sell certain books. I disagree with much conservative opinion, but we either have free speech or we do not. Free speech only for those who agree with the ruling party is not free but autocratic.

Some argue that the speech they are trying to silence is dangerous. Yes, misinformation and incendiary speech from both the right and the left have dangers. However, allowing one group of people, in this case liberal Democrats, to decide what another group of people, conservative Republicans, can and cannot listen to and read is ever so much more dangerous. Just a few months ago liberal Democrats were protesting threats to free speech and a free press posed by conservative Republicans. In a democracy elected officials must govern all the people. Grabbing what you can when in power, only to have the other side grab it back when they are in power, is deeply destructive, creating ever escalating competition and ever more negative feelings toward one's fellow citizens.

Slightly over half of voters elected the Democrats in November. Slightly under half, including an increased number of Black and Hispanic people, preferred Republicans. In all the talk of unity since the election, I have heard little consideration of crossing the divide between liberals and conservatives, each of which includes all races, religions, and a variety of political persuasions. And, both bear responsibility for our polarization. There are many reasons that people vote as they do. At this point in our history too many people, on both sides, vote because they feel their way of life threatened by the other side.

Our country faces many challenges that concern all of us. We will meet these challenges by listening to each other with open minds and hearts and striving to find a path forward together, not by censoring the speech of those with whom we disagree.

Ann Kremers,

Bennington


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