American culture is increasingly becoming a culture of offense. Expression from public and private individuals is consistently under scrutiny which, when combined with the internet and love of tabloid-media moments, can make a disagreement between the residents of a town into the focus of a national story about “the war” on Christmas and/or veterans.
According to The Bangor Daily News, for two years, the town of Bar Harbor Maine has decorated an Evergreen tree with lights as part of a memorial to those who fell in the Battle of the Bulge in World War II, fought during the Christmas of 1944. However, the town council decided the memorial was too similar to a Christmas tree. Unidentified residents were offended by “an accompanying plaque [which] referred to Christmas and they were not Christians.”
Jesse Waters, a correspondent for The O’Reilly Factor, visited the town and confronted the council to defend the decision to remove the lights and city manager Dana Reed’s statement that the display was “tacky.” Lest this be mistaken for journalism, note in the video below we see far more of Waters’s smug questioning than any answers from the people he’s there to interview. Still, it does raise an interesting point about the validity of people’s offense.
The first right given to the people in the Bill of Rights is the right of free expression. It’s one of our most prized rights and perhaps the only truly powerful one we have left. Yet, the natural byproduct of free expression is that some people are going to be offended. To some, artists who display graphic images or vulgar language are necessary and important for culture, yet to others the very nature of their work is offensive. Conversely, there are those who find expressions of religious faith intolerable, but for those who believe, that expression is a vital part of their life. This diversity of opinion is important, and part of what makes America exceptional. We, as a society committed to freedom of speech, need to protect all forms of expression lest we diminish a necessary American value.