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Letter to the Editor: Responding to the Tyranny of the Majority

Editor,

This in response to Jim Vopat’s letter to the editor (Right-wing letter writers need to get a clue) published March 1st.

While I am not going to criticize the political views of the writer, I want to point out something important about one’s right to voice any views they wish, no matter how ridiculous or divisive it may seem—short of inciting harm to others, of course.

Mr. Vopat states, “Did these [right-wing] letter writers miss the news? Republicans lost the election and are a dwindling minority…the majority of your neighbors do not share your views. The right-wing letters The Herald-Palladium prints in such abundance are manipulative lies and meant to deceive.”

The founders, in particular James Madison, were keenly aware of the dangers of this attitude; he wrote of a tyranny of “a majority… united by a common interest or a passion [that] cannot be constrained from oppressing the minority.”

We can see oppressive rhetoric on either side of the philosophical debate concerning the government’s role in society and private life, but keep in mind that debate or ideas should not be stifled because they are a minority view or might simply be impracticable—if not outright offensive—to the sensibilities of a vast majority of people.

Our nation is great for many reasons; the most important of which is the freedom afforded to us by the first amendment to the constitution.

One is entitled to their opinion regarding even the opinion of others, but to actively seek to diminish another’s ability to express it simply because it is the opinion of “a dwindling minority” does little to progress political and social discourse.

Mike Mattner
Benton Harbor

This response has been sent but is yet to be published.

Update: This was published in the Letters to the Editor section of the Herald Palladium on March 4, 2009.

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