I remember the night I stood at the Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan and looked up at my command ship, the USS Blue Ridge, or what we seamen referred to as “The Blue Cruiser.”
I was a young recruit right out of boot camp and had just returned from an evening exploring the train system and the city of Zushi.
The light from inside the ship glimmered. I drew a deep breath.
“I’m in the United States Navy,” I thought, feeling an overwhelming sense of pride in myself – and for my country.
I have often thought back to that moment – that life-changing second when you realize you are doing something important.
For many of us veterans, that moment is understanding that you are bravely answering the call of your country to uphold the freedom that those before us fought for.
Years later, as a salty editor, I am tasked again with protecting one of those freedoms – our freedom of speech.
The Bothell-Kenmore Reporter published a cartoon on Aug. 19 about the U.S. Navy and Seafair activities, with a girl saying, “So, what do we need the stupid old Navy for, anyway?”
Bothell resident John Darracott, a retired U.S. Marine Corps major, sent a letter (below) urging the Reporter to “think deep” about what that cartoon said.
As a veteran myself, I can understand how the cartoon may have offended some people.
We need the military because our country could not exist as it is without our soldiers and veterans.
But our country also would not be the United States without democracy – the form of government in which all citizens participate equally. Democracy gives voters the capacity to participate freely and allows citizens an equal say in decisions that affect their lives.
To function, a democracy must have free expression and educated criticism.
As one of America’s founding fathers Thomas Jefferson once said, “A democracy cannot be both ignorant and free.” He also said the basis of our government is the “opinion of the people.”
The Reporter’s opinion page serves as a platform for the community to share their opinions, through letters to the editor, guest commentary and cartoons. The aforesaid forms of expression are all based on people’s opinions.
Letters, commentary and cartoons – including the recent Navy cartoon the Reporter published – do not reflect the opinions or viewpoints of the newspaper or Reporter staff. You may find the newspaper’s or Reporter staff’s viewpoints outlined in the editorial space – the place you are reading right now.
We encourage everyone in the community to exercise your First Amendment rights and express your opinions – whether they are mainstream viewpoints or not.
And when you disagree – let us know, as many of you did in the past couple of weeks regarding the cartoon we published.
We, the people, depend on freedom of speech for a functioning democracy. It’s part of what many of us have fought so hard for and have even died to protect.
Carrie Rodriguez is the regional editor for the Bothell/Kenmore and Kirkland Reporter Newspapers and can be reached at 425-483-3732.