OF BULLHORNS AND BLOOD
‘Now is not the time’ was the thought that blared from inside my head. The elderly Senator from Arizona didn’t miss a beat, but the words ‘ he deserves our respect’ kept beating between my ears. The chant persisted “McCain go home!” The woman of order and respect inside of me erupted and I turned around and ran across the grassy quad of the campus opposite the speaker’s dais. I think I may have caused some pee to erupt from the guy with the bullhorn when I ran towards him like a raging bull, or heifer, my index finger aimed squarely at his nose. “There is a time and place for everything and now is the time for respect. You can protest later!” About three other more official looking people approached Bullhorn guy at the same time, from North, East and South. “You may disagree with him but he is an American war hero and he deserves your respect which he earned when he was in Hanoi!” And like a zephyr from the West I blew over and silenced him with, “Put a sock in it!” He peevishly lowered the bullhorn and I trotted back to my place in the front of the crowd. People from my right and left sides leaned in and thanked me for shutting up the bullhorn protester. I do have to acknowledge the efforts of North, East, and South as well. Senator McCain continued with his short speech with no further interruptions. ReaganGirl is an old school style teacher. When it comes to order, respect, and appropriate public conduct I just can’t help myself. Yes the fellow with the bullhorn was considerably older than me but I had to put him in time out until the end of the speech.
About a year ago the neophyte president, Barak Obama, traveled to Grand Junction with his snake oil caravan in an attempt to gain support for his socialized medicine ploy. There were a number of protests that day, each one snowballing in size and enthusiasm. When the protesters arrived at the venue where the president would speak we outnumbered the Obama supporters, a development which surprised everyone. There were quite a few young people among the protesters, many of them hoisting the yellow Tea Party battle flag. The opposition had it’s share of provocateurs and they were inflaming some of the already fervent young men in the front lines of the protest. There were some expletives and rude exchanges and so I began to patrol the front lines of the protest. If I observed wrath or anger I would simple tap the aggravated individual on the shoulder and say “Don’t forget, we are the good guys. Be civil.” Or I would simply try to keep them on message with something like, “Don’t allow them to engage you. They are not reasonable and they want you to do something stupid. Don’t fall for it.” My marmish effort to monitor and quell some of the roiling rhetoric seemed to work and the crowd stayed orderly and respectful for the most part.
Go ahead and ask the question, “Okay, ReaganGirl, who died and made you teacher?” Well, nobody died, but the concept of civility has been bludgeoned and bashed beyond recognition. If I could do one thing with my admonitions it would be to remind people who we are. We are Americans. Freedom of speech is our dictum. We invented the machinery that mass marketed to the whole world the idea that men are endowed with the right to speak what they believe. But with the right comes the responsibility to ensure that we take turns when we speak our minds. We ARE NOT the people who shout down speakers with whom we disagree. We prove them wrong with evidence but they get their turn. Shout downs are for the liberal eggheads who invite Conservative speakers to their campi only to have a coordinated chorus of sycophants drown them out with their babble. We are Americans. We believe in civility. We believe in tolerance. And we value the opinions of the least among us. They may be wrong, they may even be destructive, but they get their turn.
Bullhorn guy was a member of the local Tea Party. I consider myself a Tea Party activist. I believe in the tenets of the Tea Party. But he was simply out of line. His timing was inappropriate and he was rude. We are not rude. We are confident in our beliefs and so we show patience and respect when the other side takes their turn. The right of free speech, a gift from God, has been defended by the blood of Americans for nearly 250 years. I regard this right with solemnity. I am not flippant about the right of my enemies to speak. I will give them their turn. It is the job of ReaganGirl and all Conservative Americans to, simply, prove them wrong through civil and enlightened discourse.
The Vietnam War ran with the blood of over 50,000 Americans. Many knew why they were fighting, many did not. But the blood of each American killed in that war was an installment toward the cost of freedom (see The Acceptable Blood). John McCain was aware of his men who were imprisoned with him, and those still in combat. He knew they needed something, someone to remind what they were fighting for. John McCain was tortured, his shoulders broken repeatedly. He prolonged his sentence in the Hanoi Hilton when he refused an early release, which he could have taken because his father was an admiral. John McCain knowingly suffered, longer and more profoundly than he had to. He knew the purpose of his example and sacrifice was to encourage the morale of the men who put everything on the line so that all Americans can take their turn and speak what they believe.