Reminder from Russia ...

Comparing democracy in America and democracy in Russia no doubt would produce some noticeable differences.

To be sure, Russia has become a more democratic country since the days of the old autocratic Soviet Union, which fell apart and disappeared in 1991. But Russia, its successor, has very little democratic tradition to build upon and autocratic urges which continue to impact governance there.

One only needs to consider a pending proposal to change the country’s constitution to allow President Vladimir Putin the opportunity to seek two more six-year terms after his present one expires in 2024.

What should be noted, however, with a bit of concern for our own country is how easily a country can lose freedoms with the stroke of a pen or a change in its constitution. In our own case, this only requires a majority on the Supreme Court to make a particular interpretation on a particularly key issue, such as free speech.

Speech codes, which proscribe certain types of speech, have been in place on some U.S. college campuses for decades. The Supreme Court has ruled against at least one such code at the University of Michigan in 1989, but where will things go from here?

While some forms of speech are difficult to defend and inadvisable, it seems the current climate is placing more pressure on certain forms of speech than ever before, and causing reluctance for some to engage in debate. Free speech is guaranteed in our constitution, and one of our duties as a newspaper is to defend that right. We should never take it for granted.

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