We shouldn’t attack those who are different

We generally don’t write about national events here at the Lassen County Times, but sometimes these issues spill into our little piece of Northeastern California just the same. We in Lassen County are not exempt from the troubling tribalism between Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, sweeping our nation — a disease and affliction that corrodes each and every aspect of our national consciousness and discourse. You can see it right here as people espouse their political beliefs and exchange barbs with one another.

Most everyone’s probably seen the video of conservative activist Hayden Williams being assaulted on the University of California, Berkeley campus, allegedly because of his conservative views.

This is especially ironic to me because UC Berkeley, as everyone should know, was home to the free speech movement in the 1960s. Now some media pundits try to raise our ire and convince us this type of behavior is some brand new symptom of unacceptable intolerance created today by the left. It simply is not.

Don’t you remember when Merle Haggard capitalized on the political divide with songs such as “Okie From Muskogee” and “Walking On The Fighting Side Of Me” or when men with long hair regularly had both their sexuality and gender questioned?

Our brave soldiers returning from Vietnam were spat upon and called baby killers.

And so it comes and goes from both sides.

There’s a reason why the Founding Fathers included freedom of speech in the First Amendment — we can’t be free if we can’t express ourselves.

Perhaps the thinkers who provided the brainpower for The Enlightenment philosophy that formed the foundation of the American government first expressed the idea of a free and open marketplace of ideas (similar to the concept of economic free markets also developing at the time), believing the good ideas would rise and the bad ideas would fall. Jefferson believed we needed free speech so the people could discover the truth. I agree. I am not afraid of anyone’s ideas, and I support anyone’s and everyone’s right to express themselves, even and especially when I disagree.

Truth be told, I’m sometimes disappointed by the outcome of such a free exchange when people accept an idea or cause or candidate I find unacceptable, but that’s just how the marketplace works.

We need to move away from the labeling, the name-calling and the abusive, hateful language that dominates our political discourse these days and focus instead on the content of our ideas. If people with different views can be so dehumanized it’s OK to punch someone in the face, we’ve forgotten what it means to be an American. That emboldened, violent, partisan thug does not stand for freedom of expression.

We should find some tolerance as we discuss our differences so we can truly live up to the lofty ideals of our great nation. We’ve lost everything good if we’re reduced to simply being one of us or one of them.

Let’s face it; we’re all Americans living together in our great land. It’s not someone’s ideas we need to fear — we can discuss and debate those in a logical and rational manner. Instead, we should fear those who so easily split us into warring factions and our own shameless propensity to follow and fall into one of them without a thought.

I’m troubled, and I’m sounding the alarm.

We really ought to do better.