The cinematic adaptation of the novel The Da Vinci Code recently opened in movie theaters across the country. Like the novel, the film drew detractors and supporters wherever it was running. And like the novel, the film elicited different reactions from different people.
In some areas, the opening of the film version, also titled "The Da Vinci Code", brought picket lines to movie theaters and sermons from pulpits. In others, the strongest reaction was a shrug. As they have done whenever the mass media- films, books, magazines or newspapers-
brought a hot-button item to widespread
public attention, Americans across the country and in the Greater New York area did their own thinking about the questions the book, and now the film, raised.
What we think of the book or the movie is not relevant to this discussion. (Our reviewer gave her opinion of the film in our May 24, 2006 edition; it can be found on our Web site, www.qgazette.com.) What is relevant, we think, is what the book and the film-and the often heated discussions about each one-reveal: that this is, indeed, the land of the free.
The founders of the United States, who devised the system of representative democracy that governs this country, among their basic principles adopted the attitude of French philosopher Voltaire in his Essay On Tolerance: "Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so too". For the past 230 years, the principle has prevailed, exemplified in America's attitude toward the book, the film and the individuals and groups that support or oppose them. This is America and our Constitutional right of freedom of speech lets books be written and films be made and leaves us free to read and see them or not, as we choose.
Whatever one's feelings about "The Da Vinci Code" may be, that the film is playing in movie theaters around the country without rioting, rampaging mobs, burnings at the stake or secret tribunals condemning moviemakers and moviegoers alike is a tribute to our democracy and the freedom of expression it espouses. Whatever our beliefs, we can all be proud and thankful that we live in a free society.