Civil disagreement is something every American holds dear and we are proud of our history of free speech. The First Amendment prohibits government from restricting what we say. As we grow up most of us are taught not to abuse the privilege and about being responsible. We learn about the dangers of hate speech and contributing to the death or physical harm of others by what we advocate for.
Our rich history of exercising freedoms of speech is based in large part on the spirit of independence inherited from our founding fathers. We are proud of our system of government, yet realize by discussing our opinions and feelings with our neighbors we grow. Our freedom of speech is a check on government by maintaining an awareness people in communities large and small across the land are really in charge. We vote them into power. We can vote them out.
Those who get elected aren’t always our picks. It may be we wanted someone else in office. We supported another party. Perhaps we felt certain proposals one person advocated for would benefit our interests, the community’s, the state or country’s. It could be this time they didn’t get elected.
When they don’t get in we might feel disappointed, let down and angry. Maybe that anger stings and leaves us feeling beaten. Either way we now have to live with a leader whose ideas of what is good for the country do not jive with our own for at least another two to six years. Every time they do something we don’t approve of we may think ‘if more people voted our way this would not have happened.’
Expression of divergent views makes this country and all of us in it stronger and greater. If we want to ensure a candidate with sympathetic views gets elected we can work towards that end. We can blog, tweet, rally, protest, join campaigns and more. We can stand up have our voices heard so others hear us. Not only is that good for individuals, but invaluable to the nation.
Yet sometimes that anger and desire to see our views written into legislation goes too far. Sometimes the want for our personal political opinions to become law morph into an inability to live with our nation’s process. In those cases it’s democracy itself we lose sight of. When things don’t go our way we can lose sight of what it means to live with others within the system. In this country we get it done together.
Ever since the elections in 2008 the amount of anger and vitriol in our country has grown exponentially. A recent radio interview with Mark Potok, the director of publications and information for the Southern Poverty Law Center, noted the amount of anti government groups and paramilitary wings “jumping 244 percent in 2009.” He goes on to state “the very same thing happened before the militia movement burst onto the scene in the 1990s.” (http://www.npr.org/templates/sto...) The more extremist of those groups in the 1990’s led to among other things the Oklahoma City Bombing on April 19, 1995.
For some reason the same anger that showed up in the 1990’s when President Bill Clinton was elected has resurfaced. Yet this time it didn’t wait for policies to emerge. Assassination plots were being hatched and thwarted when Barack Obama was still a candidate for president. During the Bush presidency even when he expanded the government heath care regulations, beefed up Medicare, spent a surplus and increased our deficit conflicting voices from the same sector were comparatively quiet. Why now? Why him?
If they voiced dissent on the issues it was just that, but things are different now. Recently as elected officials were going to vote on health care reform they were met with angry shouts of not simply, “kill the bill” and “no health care reform,” but with verbal attacks on race and personal lifestyle. Threatening letters by the scores were sent to elected representatives. Once passed, emails promising harm and physical assault were sent. Nasty threatening voicemails were left.
Governors across the nation are being threatened not just with being voted out of office, but with meeting grave harm. Anti-Semitic slurs have been sent to representatives and bricks thrown at windows. Gas lines have been cut. But, President Obama did not tell some gigantic lie to the country to get health care passed. He did not peddle some ginned up story to send Americans into harms way and invade another nation we are still at war with. He campaigned on health care reform before his election and followed through on that promise. The McCain camp also campaigned on health care reform at that time. Would we be seeing the same level of hate were this President John McCain’s health care reform?
The attacks seemed focused not only on reform, but on the president as well. He is treated as less than American including attempts to sell the idea he is actually not a US citizen despite the fact his citizenship has been verified. There is corruption in our government no doubt, but it was there previous to the election of this president. Though it has not been perfect he’s actually enacted more transparency in government than any other modern American president.
The current level of anger is disproportionate to what’s happened. The picture is an angry increasingly violent one of people saying ‘we disagree with you and your politics so we will harm you we will kill you.’ We see that happening in other countries and think ‘that doesn’t happen here.’ That’s because located somewhere in that image something is very, very wrong. This November we need to decide what we think about that.
To read about my inspiration for this article go to www.lawsuitagainstuconn.com.