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Re: Beth Fiteni’s letter about Phil Guye (The Mail, 12/19). She says, “The tenet of freedom of expression is not that anyone can say whatever the hell they want—it is based on responsibility for how that speech may harm others.”

Actually, freedom of speech does mean that anyone can say whatever the hell he wants. That is something people Beth’s age don’t realize, because over recent decades, Americans have become less free in general. As for speech, free means free. Someone may be offended by another’s speech; she is free to say she is offended and in any spoken terms she chooses.

As a kid I regularly heard and said, “It’s a free country!” when someone said or did something another didn’t like. Now, I suspect, kids do not say that. For them, “mustn’t offend” probably has been substituted. And as people drive around obediently buckled up (“It’s our LAW”), they become accustomed to limits that formerly were not in place, and they don’t realize how dangerous it is to believe that “free” speech should have conditions.

Cleveland Park