Letters to the Editor


At the risk of taking up my more than my share of space, I feel a response to Mr. Kerry Collins' letter is warranted ("FIL's Board President Weighs In," Indbox, May 25).

Though Collins makes clear his belief that the Festival International board would never add language to its contracts restricting political expression, he does state that the organization will impose restrictions on "vulgar language, sexually explicit lyrics, hate mongering, and the advocacy of violence." Most people agree that these things require limitation, and thus there are laws on the books restricting them. If the festival's restrictions are intended merely to point out that the law must be obeyed, they are redundant and unnecessary. If they are to be stronger than the law, then individuals will end up making moral judgments they have no right to make. It is precisely for the protection of our diverse community that no one should be allowed to impose standards other than those made by elected officials and expressed in law.

I can think of several local and international artists who might be banned from the festival under the "sexually explicit lyrics" heading. There are many important acts who could be considered "hate mongers" if one disagreed strongly enough with their politics. Plenty of artists could be shut down under the "advocacy of violence" ruling. For instance, many reggae artists refer to violence in powerful songs like "Burnin' and Lootin'." Should they not be hired, or should they be told to play only non-controversial songs? Who decides what is and isn't controversial?

To provide a local example that will seem silly at first, what would happen if someone were to sing the line "I'm gonna break your face!" in the popular song "Don't Mess With My Toot Toot"? I'm certain that my 3-year-old daughter would be distraught at hearing those words. Do I want someone at FIL imposing a limitation on it for her sake? Absolutely not. Not in this case, not in any case.

Or, ask yourself what would happen if a punk rock or hip hop group got up on stage and chanted "I'm gonna break your face" aggressively for five minutes straight, pumping their fists in the air with angry looks on their faces? Would that be different, even though the words are the same? Who would decide? Who has the right to judge?

I know the answer to that question. Judges. The elected ones.