Anyone who knows me knows that I’m pretty opinionated. I have no problem sharing my views with anyone who asks (and, admittedly, sometimes with those who don’t ask). I have a healthy respect for the freedom of speech we all have as Americans which allows me to state my opinions freely and without fear of retribution, and I absolutely believe in the right of others to do the same, even when their views differ from mine. But as I found out in my lovely suburban enclave this past week, the unprecedented partisanship and pettiness in this country is threatening our ability to enjoy that freedom of speech without fear of someone trying to take it away.
I was walking with a friend the other day and she asked me what bumper stickers I had on my car and if I’d noticed any of them missing. I told her that one of our cars has three stickers – one promoting clean energy initiatives, the now-ubiquitous suburban sticker “My child is an honor roll student at INSERT YOUR SCHOOL” and an Obama 2012 sticker. I told her I certainly hadn’t noticed that any of them were missing and asked why. Apparently she was on a walk with her daughter in our neighborhood a few days ago and witnessed a man, late forties or early fifties, walking ahead of them, stop at our driveway, look at our car and then take something off of the car. My friend’s daughter stopped in her tracks and said, “Mom, it looks like that guy is doing something to the Hultin’s car!” My friend wasn’t sure what was happening, but the man was at least ten feet ahead and by the time they reached my driveway, he was gone and she wasn’t sure what he had or had not taken.
I told her I would check my car after I got home from our walk. Sure enough, the Obama 2012 sticker was missing.
Now, I realize that stealing a bumper sticker from someone’s car is not equal to stealing their actual car or a valuable piece of jewelry or robbing their home. But, in fact, I felt the same way and possibly worse; I felt completely violated. Someone trespassed on my property, touched my car and stole something from me. The bumper sticker? We’ve already replaced it. What this bully really stole was my right to freedom of speech and the right of every American to have that freedom upheld and respected.
Personally, I cringe when I see someone with an old Bush/Cheney sticker on their car, or a McCain/Palin sign. But I would fight for that person’s right to post that sticker or sign and state their opinion freely and without fear. I hate to be cliché, but seriously: what is this country coming to? I can’t have a bumper sticker on my car, in my own driveway, on my own property, without a neighbor walking by and ripping it off?
For the person who committed the crime (and again, making me feel unsafe and violated for expressing my opinion is the bigger violation here), I have a small bit of sympathy. I’m guessing this guy is too insecure in his own thoughts to have others freely express their opinions around him, too full of hatred and intolerance to uphold the freedoms we enjoy in America and at the end of the day, a good-old fashioned bully – the kind that I teach my children never to be and never to interact with. Mr. Bully, I’ll just put another sticker on the car and every time thereafter that you decide to remove it and just remember – by removing it, you are not removing my right to my opinion and you’re not changing my opinion – in fact, if anything, you’ve probably made me even more steadfast and stubborn in my support for President Obama, given the way in which you’ve chosen to represent the other side.
I hate to think what this kind of incident says about my neighbors, my city, my state, and my country, but at the end of the day, I will keep expressing my opinion and keep teaching my kids to do the same – after all, upholding freedom in the face of bullies is really what our country is all about.