In preparation for next week's Fourth of July, I've been asking some folks around town just what "freedom" means to them. "Freedom" is a word that gets thrown about quite a lot these days. We talk about the freedoms we enjoy in this nation. Those of us in Madison are reminded of four particular freedoms each time we drive by the Four Freedoms Park and see the beautiful, marble monument that has become a symbol of our city.
But what does all this "freedom" talk really mean? Lately, we have seen instances where public officials have been accosted in public, refused service in restaurants, publicly harassed while out with families and other instances that have bordered on outright assault. Predictably, there have been those who have defended this behavior, saying, in effect, "That guy on the other side started it, so it's okay to say and do anything we want." I'm reminded of the saying, "Your right to swing your fist stops at my chin."
I am all in favor of everyone's right to protest and even complain when things aren't going the way they should. I have even been known to bellyache on occasion about different topics. Just ask any of the nice people with whom I work. I'm not always the sweet, gentle, "happy go lucky" guy that many of you have hopefully come to know and love. But I would never be rude to anyone, merely because they have a differing viewpoint than I. Anyone is free to disagree with me. I wouldn't be mean or rude to them just because they are wrong.
I strongly feel that along with the freedom to disagree comes an even greater responsibility to disagree in a proper manner. To me, being rude, using vulgar language and promoting violence is not what I would consider the proper manner.
A lot of really good people sacrificed a lot so that we can have the freedom to disagree. I would say to those who would use that freedom to behave poorly and rudely, "Please don't cheapen the sacrifices of a lot of brave folks with your foolishness!" Of course, anyone is free to disagree with me if you like, but please don't yell at me while I'm enjoying a chicken salad sandwich at Norris Cafe.