A Pendulum Swings, But Not Too Far

Since the January 6th attempted insurrection by violent supporters of Mr. Trump, incited by a host of lies about the Presidential Election, the pendulum has changed direction. Many of those involved have been arrested, lost their jobs, and been the object of scorn and derision.

Much of this, for those who broke the law, is well deserved. Mr. Trump, touting his strong on crime positions of the past four years, often proselytized swift and significant punishment for lawbreakers. Those words may now come back to haunt him and those who were blinded by his subtle yet real calls for violence against the government. One thing Mr. Trump is good at is obfuscation of truth to serve his purpose. No one will ever dissuade me from the belief that Mr. Trump had every intention of inspiring that crowd to do exactly what they did.

Yet our reaction need be one in direct contradiction to Mr.Trump’s blatant incitement. There is a danger here in our substituting one philosophy for another and punishing those who disagree with us, that is his approach not ours.

Every single person who attended that rally supporting Mr. Trump had the absolute right to do so. Expressing one’s opinion in protest and free speech is the very foundation of government. Even when that speech is permeated with lies and intentional misrepresentations.

No matter how distasteful such political positions may be, no matter how antithetical they may be to the spirit of America, they are protected under the First Amendment from governmental restrictions or intrusions.

It is when they cross the line into violent acts that the law must apply.

While they may be well within their right to do so, if a company or other organization terminates an employee for their beliefs, for their exercise of their constitutional rights, for expressing an opinion outside of the workplace, absent any criminal act, it comes dangerously close to creating an atmosphere of fear.

As to those who took it beyond peaceful protest, you made your choice, and you must face the consequences. I know many of those who stormed the Capitol building took great delight in many of Mr. Trump’s forceful statements on punishing those who break the law. They just never thought it should apply to them because they bought into the lies of a charlatan.

Evelyn Beatrice Hall, writing under the name, S.G. Tallentyre, in her biography of Voltaire wrote the following line (which is often incorrectly attributed to Voltaire underscoring the need to research truth)

In The Friends of Voltaire, Hall wrote the phrase:

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”

The line illustrated Voltaire’s philosophy, and it is one we should embrace.

I do not understand how anyone could support Donald Trump. I didn’t understand it in 2016, and I see the past four years as further evidence of his Presidency being the biggest mistake ever in our history.

But seventy-five million Americans voted for Mr. Trump. Seventy-five million. Because Mr. Trump lost the election does not mean they must be silent on their positions. It does not mean they must abandon their positions. It does not mean they cannot work toward 2024 for a Republican candidate to challenge President-elect Joe Biden.

It does mean they must accept the results of the 2020 election and exercise their rights of Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Assembly within the law.

As long as they do that, then while I would disagree with their philosophy I would defend to the death their right to say it.

And I would expect, as Americans, they would do the same. It is what makes America great and always will.


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