What America Means To Me

by James J. Devine, Publisher, Atom Tabloid & Citizen-Gazette

Some people are upset about an advertisement that appeared in newspapers I publish.

Created by an organization – http://www.tompaine.com – that believes President Bush is using the call to arms against Iraq as a means of distracting the public from domestic issues in the upcoming election, the ad has brought about emotional responses from several people.

Among those who have protested the ad are veterans, men who fought for the very liberty that protects the right of those who developed the ad to express themselves.

Today, one of those veterans who I respect and admire, George Lisicki, demanded that I apologize for printing the ad, agree to refuse to publish similar opinions in the future and turn over the money from the ad to a World Trade Center charity.

I cannot apologize for publishing an unpopular opinion. Thomas Paine, among many others, would have been executed for writing what he did about the King of England in the days of the American Revolution. The right of the people to protest what the government does is what America means to me.

To silence an individual whose ideas are disagreeable to the vast majority is no more just than it would be for that individual, had he the power, to silence the vast majority. The right to express unpopular ideas is fundamental to America. It’s what those veterans who are angry now found worth fighting for during their terms of military service.

I cannot, and will not, censor political opinions that request a venue in my newspapers. I have critics who claim I do that, but their arguments are without foundation.

When one reader wrote a letter to the editor calling me vile names, I directed my staff to publish it. I can take as much heat as anyone who chooses to live a public life. Tolerance, accepting criticism and living in a pluralistic society is what America means to me.

If any of those who found the anti-war ad objectionable would like space to refute it in my publications, I welcome you to submit your opinions to me and I will publish them free of charge.

Commander Lisicki declined my offer of free space to rebut the offensive ad, but the offer stands: George, I will give you a full page to say whatever you think is appropriate.

On the issue of backing down on principles, however, I offer no retreat and no surrender. Standing up for the principles upon which this great nation was founded is not always easy, but it is what America means to me.’

[Editor’s Note: Since the original publication of this article on a New Jersey internet forum, George Lisicki provided material which was reformatted to create an ad that appeared in the next edition of the Atom Tabloid & Citizen-Gazette.]

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