2017-02-02 / Opinion


Protect Free Speech for All

To the Editor:

Freedom of speech and freedom of the press are bedrock principles and among our most cherished rights as Americans. They set us apart from most of the world. When totalitarians, socialists, communists, or theocracies move in, freedoms of speech and the press are the first things to be eliminated.

Therefore, it was particularly heartbreaking and frightening to read of the attempts by a few to ban the talk show hosted by John DePetro on WADK radio. The attack is politically motivated, as his views are on the right.

Even though his popular show has had blemishes in the past and I do not agree with him on many things, he has never gone into speech that calls for violence or harm to others. It has become trendy now to describe speech that does not agree with the left as “bigoted” and “hateful.”

However, these groups do not realize that the same freedoms that protect them protect us all.

I ask, where are the “protesters for kind speech” who emerged when all the vicious hate speech was being directed toward Sarah Palin and her family? Of the countless examples, Rahm Emanuel called her “retarded” and comedian Sandra Bernhard called for her to be “gang raped.”

Even President Bill Clinton was famously caught saying to Ted Kennedy of President Obama, “A few years ago he would have been serving us coffee.”

Jessie Jackson has numerous examples of hateful words toward the Jewish community.

It only takes a simple Google search to see hundreds of examples of hate speech from the left calling for extreme violence, even death, against the president and his family.

Free speech is always brought up by many to defend the words of music groups that sing about killing cops or violence toward women. Or to defend Howard Stern or many of the comedians who have performed in this town spewing dark comedy with no protests.

The left is noticeably silent.

Aside from calls for violence, free speech should be protected for all. Even if you don’t agree with it.

Even the left-leaning ACLU has defended extreme hate groups like the KKK, not because they like what they say, but because taking away freedom of speech can lead to taking away the voice of reason’s right to free speech and press. The ACLU noted that even the worst form of speech needs to be protected to ensure freedom for all.

When we start trying to suppress words, what is next? Newspapers? Political and community leaders, most of whom admit to not listening to DePetro’s show in the past, need to look at the larger picture.

What if this were a predominantly Republican town, and there was a call for a ban on a Democraticleaning show on the air? It would be equally shameful and un-American to stop it.

If something offends, don’t listen to it. Boycott advertisers if you must. Or start your own radio show with your views. However, do not ban free speech.

Michael Smith

Legislators Out of Touch

To the Editor:

A recent article in Newport This Week asked several local legislators about their positions on marijuana regulation ("Legislators Weigh in on Recreational Marijuana," Jan. 19). Unfortunately, though recent polling demonstrated that a majority of voters in Rhode Island support regulating marijuana like alcohol by a 20-point margin, our local politicians seem happy to maintain the prohibitionist status quo. The same 2015 poll found 65 percent of Democrats were in favor of marijuana regulation, which makes it even more surprising that all of these legislators are members of the Democratic Party.

Sen. Louis DiPalma, D-Middletown, states that he is concerned about “the detrimental effects that marijuana has on the developing brain.” If this is his top priority, then he should be supporting regulation. Usage by teens, when brains are often the most impressionable, goes down with regulation, not up. A June 2016 study in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry found that the number of teens using marijuana was falling as more states regulate. Furthermore, in-depth state surveys in Colorado and Washington also suggest modest decreases in rates of marijuana use among youth.

The current prohibitionist model does not keep marijuana out of the hands of teens. Though DiPalma may have tried to position himself as looking out for young people, he has failed. His perpetuation of broken policies has helped to maintain unregulated access to the drug for teens. Unlike regulated businesses, dealers in the illicit market have no incentive to check identification or to refuse to sell marijuana to minors. Even more concerning, the illegal market recruits teens themselves to be dealers to their peers, a dangerous situation that we don’t see with alcohol or tobacco.

Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed, D-Newport, who has “serious concerns” about regulation, would also benefit from giving this issue more thoughtful consideration. She mentions that she has recognized the benefit of decriminalization, which greatly diminished penalties to a “parking ticket level.” This change was indeed significant, as Paiva Weed notes, and we now need to go further. Thousands of Rhode Islanders have criminal records for minor marijuana offenses, and the bill to regulate marijuana would allow those individuals to seek expungement. This issue clearly fits within Paiva Weed’s priority of criminal justice reform. Marijuana prohibition has long been a pillar of the failed war on drugs. For this reason alone, this should be a top priority for Democrats, yet they evade the issue altogether.

Our lawmakers have had plenty of time to study this important issue. Unfortunately, however, their public comments indicate that they have not given it serious thought. With Massachusetts moving to set up their legal marijuana market, it’s time for our elected officials to get past simplistic talking points and offer substantive thoughts on the issue. Considering the public health and safety benefits of regulating marijuana, not to mention the thousands of jobs it will create, this is clearly a winning issue for any politician.

Michael Simpson

Food Connection Polishes Its Outreach

To the Editor:

We live in a generous and caring community, as confirmed by the number of Newport food resources and programs included in the The Food Connection brochure. Thanks to everyone who is ensuring that no one has to go hungry in Newport.

We know statistically and anecdotally that more local people, our extended families, friends and neighbors, need to avail themselves of supplemental food resources in these difficult times. New faces are appearing at meals cooked and hosted by local churches and other organizations, particularly more women and children. The latter fact makes the need for nutritious and well-balanced school meals essential. Some individuals and families, who before might have been donating food to our food pantries, are now receiving food. Many are unemployed, underemployed or working shortened hours.

We always hope that The Food Connection will also serve to create greater awareness of the problems, and resources available, for those who are in need. For those who are interested, several of the organizations can use volunteers in different capacities. For example, once again this summer there will be lunch served, at no cost to anyone under the age of 18, in a number of local parks. This program, sponsored by the Newport School Department in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, ensures children are fed throughout the year. But it can operate at numerous Newport sites only with a large number of community volunteers. Watch the local papers for contact information to participate.

Since 2009, when we published the first edition of this brochure, community-wide availability has been made possible by several Newport organizations that funded the complete printing costs. We wish to thank them for their generous financial support. They have included the Alliance for a Livable Newport, the League of Women Voters of Newport County, the Rotary Club of Newport, and the Aquidneck Community Table.

For this 2017 edition that has been so well received, we especially appreciate the support and guidance of the Newport Restaurant Group. What a wonderful organization. They raised the bar by exemplifying the idea that just because one temporarily needs to find free or low-cost food resources, nothing needs to be second-rate. Their heart is in Newport and they turned The Food Connection into a first-rate product.

Copies of The Food Connection brochure are available to be picked up at Newport City Hall, the Newport Public Library, the Park Holm and Edward King senior centers, the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center, the Seamen’s Institute, Newport public schools, the Florence Gray Center, and many more Newport locations.

With the new year beginning, we thank you for your commitment to serve Newport.

Judith Webb and Susan Wells

Building Connections in Our Community

To the Editor:

From Dec. 20 to just after the inauguration, Channing Memorial Church's Social Action Committee displayed a banner on the front of the church, depicting the Holy Family and reading, "Immigrants and Refugees Welcome." Our reasons are summarized in the following statement approved by the committee's members.

Statement of Commitment from Channing Memorial Church Social Action Committee, December 20, 2016:

Most Unitarian Universalists adhere to seven principles set forth by the Unitarian Universalist Association: We affirm and promote the worth and dignity of every person; justice, equity and compassion in human relations; acceptance of one another and encouragement of spiritual growth; a free and responsible search for truth and meaning; the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large; the goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all; and respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

The call at the very center of Unitarian Universalism is to co-create a world of love and justice and to demonstrate compassion, grace, and love in the midst of every kind of difference.

Since Nov. 8, we have perceived challenges to each of our principles, both in the actions of people who now feel free to attack those different from themselves, coupled with the lack of a strong corrective message from the highest levels of government, and in the incoming executive branch's proposed appointments to the new administration.

UUA president Rev. Peter Morales proposes that "we must provide sanctuary in the broadest and richest sense of the term. We begin with offering safe places for reflection and healing for our congregants and for those coming to seek spiritual community. But these times demand more. We must provide sanctuary to those most vulnerable." And, "We must prepare to resist human rights violations in active ways. We must make it much harder to deport, register, discriminate and despoil." Further, "We are effective when our congregations and ministers work together at the local level, combined with support from regional and national staff. We make a difference when we form strong partnerships with other faith groups and secular organizations." (Letter to UU ministers, Dec. 14, 2016)

Rev. Sue Phillips, UU N.E. Regional Lead, calls us "to think of all the people who belong to groups our president-elect has specifically targeted who are terrified that hateful rhetoric will manifest in devastating policy. The only faithful response to this moment of extraordinary division is to show ourselves and our communities that another way is possible. The antidote to polarizing fear is love. The antidote to alienating isolation is connection." (Pastoral letter to N.E. UU leaders, Nov. 16, 2016.)

The Channing Social Action Committee proposes to offer that love and connection in our community, and to work with all local groups striving to do the same. Several of us are already working with the Sankofa Community Connection, and we invite other groups and individuals to connect with us at socialactioncommittee@channingchurch.org.

Beth Milham
Channing Memorial Church

Ad Was Misleading

To the Editor:

The Friends of Newport Preservation is not the same organization as the Friends of Newport Preservation Society, so we were appalled by the misleading full-page ad in the Jan. 19 edition of Newport This Week created by the mysterious Friends of Newport Preservation. Ostensibly to celebrate Newport’s connection to The Breakers, the ad is really a guise to further the agenda of the opponents to the much-needed welcome center that has successfully passed the scrutiny of local and state agencies and is now awaiting final approval. The Preservation Society of Newport was not a sponsor of the event, so we hope the public will not be fooled by the deceptive objectives: “Save and Restore” and “Achieve a Win for Newport and Its Visitors.” The unmistakable purpose is clearly stated: “Relocate the Welcome Center Proposed by the Preservation Society.”

Ken and Tia Scigulinsky

Silence DePetro

To the Editor:

I'm writing to say how disappointed I am in our hometown station, WADK, for providing a home to radio host John DePetro and hope that they'll change their minds. I also can't understand why the mayor of Newport, Harry Winthrop, would actually call in to his show to welcome him on his first day. His angry language and disrespectful tone don't match the message of welcome that Newport projects to the world.

DePetro was pushed out of WPRO in December and signed onto WADK in January. He has called teachers who were protesting "whores" and said a rape and murder victim was responsible for her own death. He disrespected a person running for office by calling her a "fat lesbian" and has a "Pants on Fire" rating on Politifact RI for the untruths he's said.

I feel bad even putting these words on the editorial pages of our local paper, because they're not civil and they don't reflect our island's values. I don't think this kind of meanness has a place in our community, and giving him a voice will be bad for all of us.

If WADK doesn't listen to this request for civility, I hope their advertisers will.

Dawn Emsellem

Admirable Support for Giving Program

To the Editor:

The Newport Community School board of directors wishes to share with the public a wonderful program that took place during the holiday season. As in past years, NCS’s dedicated staff offered the Giving Tree program, which supports families in need that are identified by our middle and high school teachers, guidance counselors and staff of Thompson Middle School and Rogers High School. This year, 31 families were identified as needing help during the holiday season.

The staff of the Newport Community School made it possible for all families to receive gifts and other support. The Giving Tree is intended to focus on the basic needs of students and families (clothing, hygiene products), with a holiday dinner basket included. Once families were identified our Giving Tree was placed at Cappy’s Hillside Café – a longtime partner to the Newport Community School – where patrons picked tags off the Giving Tree, which has an item for each member of our families. Patrons then return the unwrapped item for the NCS staff to sort, wrap and deliver.

RaNew Salon also participated in helping to meet the needs of our families, as well as the Lions Club, Southern New England Alumnae Chapter Zeta Tau Alpha, Frosty Freez, the Aquidneck Island Adult Learning Center program staff, Hannah Street Consulting, Carrie Fletcher /Yachting Community, the Palmer family, the Landry family, the Bowley family, the Dugan family, the Silveria family, the Callahan family, the Raffa family, the Chandler family, the Vieira family and the Shea family.

The board would like to recognize our local business as well as our local community groups and individual donors for supporting the mission and goals of NCS. We particularly want to thank the Broadway merchants who developed a business association raffle. NCS was one of the winners of the raffle and as an organization donated the winnings to our most needy families.

NCS’s board of directors feels the organization and community is fortunate to have staff members who display commitment, dedication, integrity and compassion, not just during the holiday season, but each and every day working with students and families. It is our staff and NCS’s unique partnership with Newport Public Schools, our host schools Thompson Middle School and Rogers High School, and special community members that truly make a difference in the lives of our students while contributing to the vitality of our community by working together as a team.

Pam Breves, Chair
Elizabeth Grason Cohen
Jaime Crowley
Jeff Goss
Stephanie A. Pires
Rachael Prendergast
Newport Community School
Board of Directors

Parental Involvement Vital

To the Editor:

I take exception to two of Ms. Coulter's opinions in her letter,"Let's Work to Become One Newport" in the Jan. 26 edition of Newport This Week. I don't doubt that there is racism in our country, but it is not due primarily to President Trump. Racial tensions escalated dramatically during President Obama's administration. Riots arose at an alarming rate due in part, in my opinion, to the Obama administration's rush to judgment to the killing of certain blacks. Before the facts were in, his administration blamed law enforcement. President Obama had a unique opportunity to effect change in inner city neighborhoods, supporting police in these areas, and reducing black on black crime. He had a chance to bring us together, but he wasted this opportunity.

I also believe Ms. Coulter omitted one very important factor in why black students may not do as well as white students. It is parental involvement. Parent interest is critical to a student's performance. The inspiration and desire to learn comes from the parent's emphasis on education. This happens at a very early age.

It is obvious from Ms. Coulter's comments that she does care about her children's education, but not all students have parents who are dedicated to their children's schooling.

This said, I applaud Ms. Coulter's efforts to end racial vitriol.

Barbara Hughes

Working Together

To the Editor:

On behalf of our family and The Friends of Newport Preservation we would like to thank all those who attended “An Intimate Look at The Breakers – Past, Present and Future” on Thursday, Jan. 26, at La Forge Casino Restaurant.

The large turnout and the obvious affection so many Newporters have for The Breakers surpassed our expectations and touched us deeply. It was a lovely evening and a good time was had by all.

So much good will gives us hope that, if the community comes together, we can find a solution to the divisive welcome center controversy that works for everyone.

Paul Szapary
Gladys Szapary

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