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Wyss: 
Freedom of speech worth defending

Anyone who attempts to intimidate others is boorish. That includes those who have endeavored to intimidate McHenry County College officials and Northern Illinois University professor Marc Falkoff.

We’re not talking here about exerting one’s right to peacefully dissent. We’re talking about demanding that a speaker’s presentation be canceled, and warning that if and when said speaker – aka Falkoff – is rescheduled, well, look out.

Requesting a rescheduled date for Falkoff’s talk because a community is grieving the loss of a brave soldier is one thing. Threatening a loud, likely unruly presence if the event is rescheduled is another.

Falkoff, a law professor, was scheduled to speak Thursday night at McHenry County College about Guantanamo Bay detainees. He has represented several detainees who alleged that they had been held unlawfully and has edited a book of detainees’ poems.

In e-mails, online postings, harassing calls made to Falkoff, and in calls to MCC, many of those offended by Falkoff’s topic indicated that they would have shown up in force. And if the behavior exhibited at a past veterans against war session is any indication, civility would be too much to hope for.

Crystal Lake resident Joe Alger, among those demanding cancellation of Falkoff’s talk, has warned that if it happens, he’ll be there making his disgruntlement clear. Alger also said he did not call Falkoff, but if harassing calls were made, Falkoff invited them.

A campus group called the Student Peace Action Network, which has sponsored a series of current-events lectures, scheduled Falkoff’s talk.

As one might deduce from the group’s name, it leans leftward. Among past presenters has been a distinctly pro health-care reform panel and the co-founder of a Web site focusing on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from a Palestinian perspective, along with the anti-war vets.

Selecting speakers who espouse a certain viewpoint is this group’s right, just as it is the right of conservative groups to host events with speakers more to their liking. In fact, intelligent, reasonable people might attend some of both, and walk away with at least a greater understanding of others’ ideological underpinnings, if not a shifted world view.

That is the beauty of this great country, isn’t it? We are allowed to be ruffled by all political winds, not just select breezes.

Some clearly don’t think Falkoff has the right to talk about his view that at least some of the people who’ve been interminably detained at Guantanamo Bay – as yet without trial or charge – are innocent. Further, they think they have the right, even the duty, to attempt to stop his presentation.

Such efforts dishonor the very people whom this brand of opponent believes it is somehow protecting – those who have fought and even died for our freedoms. Remember, those freedoms include the freedom of speech.

Cyndi Wyss is a Northwest Herald community editor. She can be reached at 815-526-4534 or cwyss@nwherald.com.

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