COMMENTARY: On March 10, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois democracy was wounded. It remains to be seen if the wound will be fatal.
A presidential candidate rally was shut down by protesters who loudly celebrated the fact that they had been successful in preventing the candidate from speaking to his supporters.
The candidate was Donald Trump, a man who has done his share of shutting down speech, so to many it seemed only fair.
People, both left and right, are appalled at this candidate. He seems almost the antithesis of everything most of us think America stands for — tolerance, fairness and the striving for equality.
Even his opponents in the GOP race are finding it harder and harder to say that they will support him should he win the nomination — even as that eventuality becomes increasingly clearer.
So why not shut him down, end the speech that so many find disturbing? Because of this:
Amendment I to the Constitution of the United States of America
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom speech of the press or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
What the protesters failed to understand, and what Trump fails to practice, is that free speech is a two-way street. Not only do you have the right to speak — that right must be extended to everyone you disagree with, or you will surely lose it for yourself.
But Trump is promoting violence. We should shut that down, shouldn’t we? As his followers are discovering, violence carries its own consequences. There is now a supporter still in jail for assault on a protester, and his own campaign manager may face battery charges.
Natural consequences will soon put a stop to those threats. There is no need to shut him down.
It’s not much of a stretch to say that we have never seen a political campaign quite like this one. Even Chicago in 1968 seems almost quaint by comparison. Whoever we support, whichever side of the political spectrum we fall on, all of us must keep in mind what this country was founded on, and that free speech is the bedrock of it all.
The primaries move West now. Let us hope that every voice will be heard.
Anderson, of Farmington, is a past Democratic Party county officer and member of the party’s state central committee. She has been active in several political campaigns. Today she follows politics avidly as a concerned citizen.