-- Benjamin Franklin
My heart goes out to our community's Islamic, Middle Eastern and South Asian men, women and especially children who regrettably have faced harassment and defacement of their property for practicing their religious beliefs, for being dark skinned and for being immigrants -- just like my great-grandparents were a century ago. Condemning all Middle Easterners and South Asians for the recent atrocities is like blaming all Midwesterners for Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombing.
With the exception of the scapegoating of innocent Americans by a few extremists, I am overall heartened by our community's response to the tragedy of Sept. 11. Mayor Makepeace and Councilors Richard Skorman, Jim Null and Margaret Radford should all be commended for making the courageous decision to attend a religious service hosted by the Islamic Society of Colorado Springs last weekend. Their actions clearly illustrate our elected leadership's compassion and their commitment to an inclusive community.
I was also moved by the eloquent words spoken by Councilman Ted Eastburn at the Fallen Firefighters Memorial service last week, reprinted in this issue (see page 4).
The massive outpouring of financial support to help families directly impacted by the terrorist bombing, led by Citadel Broadcasting, United Way, the Red Cross and El Pomar as well as a host of other civic organizations made me glad to call the Pikes Peak region my home.
And I am also proud of how the Independent's staff has responded to this crisis, providing a wide range of news and views not otherwise available in the Pikes Peak region in both last week's edition as well as in the issue you now hold in your hands.
The massive outpouring of letters-to-the-editor, both positive and negative, in response to Cara DeGette's opinion column last week clearly illustrates the hunger we have in our community and across the nation for a meaningful debate about how best to respond to this crisis.
While I personally wish that DeGette had made her point in a slightly different manner, I concur with the two main thrusts of her column -- that these terrorists are not accurately described as cowards (fanatics would be my chosen term), and that since the end of World War II, the United States government has officially bombed 25 different nations, sometimes killing tens of thousands of innocent individuals. In light of the increasing globalization of culture and commerce, including U.S. sales of sophisticated weaponry to more than a third of the world's nations, it is just plain wishful thinking to believe that someone, somewhere will not become so angry, so fanatically angry, that they will strike back at us.
And while Cara's opinions are not being aired by much of the mainstream U.S. media, they are regularly being echoed by European, Asian and African reporters and columnists.
But whether I agree with Cara's column or other voices in the Independent is not important. As publisher, my goal is to offer a platform for a timely discussion of diverse and fact-based opinions. Those who have asked me over the years to censor Cara, John Hazlehurst, Tom Tomorrow, Jim Hightower and our other commentators are missing the point. We do ourselves a disservice whenever we silence dissenting voices.
This week, many of the readers who complained about Cara's column acknowledged that, while her points were factually accurate, "now is just not the time to bring up such views." Hogwash. It is essential for our community and our democracy to engage in a full exchange of opinions just when emotions are most raw, while we are in the midst of debating how best to respond to this terrorist act and how to prevent future atrocities.
A message for "Ron"
Egged on by state Sen. Andy McElhany, who e-mailed DeGette's column far and wide, along with his own set of non-factual disparaging remarks, as well as KCS-AM's Chuck Baker, "Ron" has reared his ugly head once again.
"Ron," who refuses to divulge his last name, is calling for the Independent "to relocate to Afghanistan." He is also spending hours and hours every day systematically harassing our advertisers and distributors with threatening anonymous phone calls. One advertiser reports that his business has received more than a dozen "boycott the Independent" threats, all left by "Ron." An employee of another advertiser reports that she was scared for her personal safety after debating "Ron" over the phone.
We call "Ron's" actions verbal terrorism.
"Ron," I wish that instead of making anonymous threats over the internet, on the radio and via the telephone, you would let me take you out for a conversation over coffee. Or better yet, you could share your opinions directly with our readers via a signed letter-to-the-editor and stop using anonymous threats to censor ideas that differ from your own.
You know how to contact us.