Letter to the Editor
To the Editor:The Aug. 25 guest columns about a canceled screening of “Birth of a Nation” omits many salient points. For openers, there were massive, sometimes violent street demonstrations to prevent “Birth’s” exhibition when it was first released (despite President Wilson’s comment that the film was “all too true”). What has changed with the passage of time? This essentially decent but all-too-human nation has passed iron-clad laws that all citizens are entitled to the exact same civil rights, period, and has enforced such. Anyone attempting to bar a black American, (or a Jew, Asian or gay person, for that matter) from the restaurant, hotel or neighborhood of their choice can expect a quick reply from the Dept. of Justice! No society can stop ignorant people from believing anything at all, but we can certainly interfere with their plans to flog or hang those they don’t like. Griffith grew up in the Reconstruction South with no personal knowledge of slavery, but a day-to-day experience of the Union Army and carpetbaggers who exerted a vicious social, economic and personal revenge on the now helpless Southerners, most of whom were too poor to have ever had slaves. Burning books and banning ideas have never solved anything. Beyond that, “Birth” is such a landmark film, in terms of technical skills, storytelling and ability to (still) emotionally affect an audience, that banning it stands against everything the First Amendment guarantees all Americans.
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