To the Editor:
I want to thank Beth Kramer and the West Tisbury Free Public Library for having the courage to host Alan Dershowitz Wednesday afternoon.
The afternoon was extraordinary in several respects. First because it presented the best expression of the First Amendment I have ever witnessed. As a “baby boomer” I have participated in many protest marches and sit-ins and demonstrations. Freedom of speech is one of our most precious rights, as is the right of the people to peaceably assemble. Mr. Dershowitz welcomed the protesters. He encouraged them to voice their criticism. Besides all the despicable characters he has defended over the years (including “OJ” Simpson, Claus von Bulow, and Jeffrey Epstein) he has also championed protesters since the war in Vietnam. And this is important, because whatever you think about the man, like the ACLU, he understands that the most important thing about this country is the rule of law. Our Constitution protects every citizen and that is what guarantees our freedom.
It is a privilege to live in a community where there is still enough respect for civility that we can have an open discussion of complicated and controversial subjects. This in itself was refreshing, but more importantly it is a cornerstone of living in a free country. We must be able to agree to disagree. We must be able to be both flexible and tolerant in our thinking. If we begin to demonize anyone who disagrees with our point of view that leads on a very slippery slope into fascism.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe that some of Alan Dershowitz’s clients are despicable men, and I don’t like that one of our most brilliant legal minds defends them. But the principle of law is more important than any individual human being. That is something Alan Dershowitz understands very well.
And whatever else you want to say about the man, he is a part of history. He has known and worked with every president of the United States and of Israel for half a century.
I appreciate the opportunity to hear what he has to say.