Friday, June 6, 2014

Stand up for controversy

    Newspapers live with controversy whether they are named The New York Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Times Picayune or the Idaho Mountain Express. Some readers will always feel that their point of view is shortchanged and some will suggest everyone would be better off if the newspaper would just avoid controversial subjects.
    The dictionary tells us that if an idea or an action is controversial, it is likely to provoke much discussion and disagreement. We believe that is a good thing.
    However, calling an idea or an action controversial far too often seems to sound its death knell. Running from controversy, valuing calm over all else, denies that some things are worth standing up for even if they are controversial.
    Our community has been whipsawed by the firestorm that erupted within days of the release of Hailey native Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, held nearly five years as a prisoner of war by the Taliban. During those years, Blaine County stood alongside the Bergdahl family. Yellow ribbons and annual gatherings reminded any who cared that we had not abandoned Bergdahl and his parents.
    When word came that he had finally been returned to U.S. hands, joy and relief erupted as neighbors contacted neighbors and total strangers came together to spread the good news. One of our own, raised here in the valley, would be coming home.
    The sad news now is that we are not going to celebrate together the simple fact of his return because there is a firestorm of media controversy over the as-yet-unknown circumstances of Bergdahl’s capture and the terms of his release, controversy that contains some ugly hate speech and threats of violence.
    The very thing that our soldiers have been fighting for is the right of all of us to say things and do things that are controversial—or as simple as gathering together to express our relief that an American captive has been released.  Somehow, though, that right has been abrogated and people intimidated by those who would have us stop expressing that relief. “No” has suddenly become more powerful than “yes.”
    Our rights should not be determined by nameless faceless commenters from Texas, or threats from anonymous groups in California. If we can’t discuss politics and we can’t discuss religion, we give up too much of real value, value protected by a Constitution and laws for which Americans have died to protect again and again.
    It would be nice to think that even debates and controversial gatherings would be ruled by politeness and civility. The fact that they may not be is no reason to give up on holding them in the first place. Those who have protected our rights are owed at least that we remember that all it takes for evil to triumph is for good men and women to do nothing.

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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.