“Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press”
Last week’s issue supplied an opportunity for me to teach my 9-year-old daughter Olivia about newspapers, and one of the key roles they play in a free society. Olivia and I were reading the opinion section together when she saw the piece from Mr. Day in which he was very critical of my dining review of Pedro O’Hara’s, and suggested that I shouldn’t be so critical in my reviews, and even proposed that I reassess whether or not I should continue providing reviews, because I was “inexperienced and insensitive.”
There was quite a bit more criticism Mr. Day shared also. Olivia was flabbergasted that I would allow such a harsh critique of myself to be published. (She knows that I run the paper and assumed I would quash what she considered an attack on her father.) She thought someone on my staff would be in trouble for putting it in. I told her that I insisted it be published, and explained that newspapers are one of the only ways that people can publicly disagree with one another and share their ideas, and that I as the editor and publisher of the paper had an obligation to support that principle of openness, even when people were criticizing me. Her concern quickly slipped into silliness, and she was not entirely paying attention, so I don’t think she really understood. The concept may have just been a little advanced for her.
Moreover, she was missing me, for it was Friday evening, and I work long hours during the week, and often don’t get home before her bedtime. She just wanted my attention, which I gladly gave her, and put the lesson aside.
The fact is I will always support Mr. Day’s right to disagree with me or anyone else in our society. That is his constitutional right as it is mine and yours. And no one should “get in trouble” in their place of business, because they respectfully share an idea in a newspaper, no matter how unpopular it may be or how much we disagree with it. Respectful dialog is the key to solving disputes. Some of our less-than-respectful politicians would serve us better if they would learn that lesson and employ that principle.
On another note, I was working in the yard a good part of last Sunday, despite the humidity, and aside from the hour I took Olivia and her friend down to the lake for a swim. Around 4 p.m., my mother came outside to get some fresh air (my folks live with us now as they are getting older and need some assistance). She and I sat down at the picnic table and started chatting. We watched the birds going to the feeder, and discussed how nice it was to listen to their songs each day. That conversation reminded me of an experience that I shared with her and will now with you.
Back in my 20s, I was single and living on Long Island, New York, where I grew up. I worked very hard holding down a full-time job, plus I moonlighted doing carpentry or whatever odd jobs I could get. However, I played hard as well. Nearly once per month, I would drive to points north with a friend or two for a few days of camping and hiking. We never camped in campgrounds. We always looked for and found remote places to experience nature as closely as possible. On one trip, my friend Todd and I were hanging out with some locals at a diner off Route 214 in upstate New York. They told us about a place that people “from away” didn’t know about and would never show up in guide books. We took our 60- to 70-pound packs and hit the trail. It was very steep for the first half mile, and then became a gradual incline. After about an hour or so at a quick pace through the woods on an old but worn trail, we came to a meadow of about five to seven acres, then through another small patch of woods and then a meadow about twice the size of the first.
It was a real treat. There were wildflowers and abundant signs of animals. We camped in the woods on the other side of the meadow. It was perfect, reasonably flat, and near a stream. Early the next morning, just as the sun cam over the horizon, I got up. Todd was still asleep. I heard something that seemed to be coming from the meadow. I slowly and cautiously walked to it and as I did I realized I was hearing a symphony of thousands of birds singing their songs. I sat down right there in the field, listening and watching. I was so profoundly moved that the only way I can describe the experience was spiritual. In fact, it was one of the most spiritual, extraordinary experiences of my life. To this day, I am moved by singing birds, and nostalgic for that moment in the meadow.
Bruce M. Hardina
Coastal Journal Editor & Publisher