This news report out of Missouri caught my eye:
When it comes to politics, there may be as many opinions as cars cruising down U.S. 65. So, naturally, there are different reactions to a billboard south of Ozark that says “Voted Obama? Embarrassed yet?”
“I know the president didn’t win down here, but there were a lot of people down here that voted for him, and I think I can speak for them and say we are not embarrassed yet,” Matthew Patterson, executive director of the Greene County Democratic Central Committee, said in a telephone interview on Sunday. [So this local Democrat believes Obama only won the Presidency in places where he received a majority vote? No wonder so many Democrats thought Gore won in 2000. --TPK]
“My partner and I felt lots of frustration here lately, and we liked that sign and we thought that was a reasonable question to ask,” Steve Critchfield said in a telephone interview on Monday.
Critchfield and his business partner from Commercial One Brokers, a real estate firm in Branson, saw a similar sign online, bought it, and brought it to the Ozarks.
“I’ve certainly voted for people I’m embarrassed to say I’ve voted for,” he said. “We’re not naïve enough to think that we wouldn’t get someone to be upset. I’m just surprised how upset people are.”
Critchfield says he’s received death threats due to the sign; people accuse him of hate speech and racism. He insists the billboard was for something more American in the name of discourse, conversation, and old-fashioned debate.
“If everybody thinks [President Obama's] done a great job and they’re very happy,” he said, “then I guess they’d be buying billboards saying ‘I’m proud to have voted for him.’ That’s what makes America great, isn’t it?”
Did you catch both the good and bad examples of free speech being exercised in the article? Obviously Steve Critchfield is exercising his right to free speech by buying the billboard, and people who are issuing death threats and accusing him of racism and hate speech are also exercising theirs. But those people are using their freedom of speech in a way designed to shut Critchfield up and deny him his freedom, a typical liberal response to the speech that liberals dislike.
But Critchfield nails the essence of free speech in the final two paragraphs of the news story: if people disagree with his opinion, the best way to express that would be to purchase a billboard of their own to support President Obama. That would be a dialog of ideas, and people could weigh the merits of each. And a dialog is much better than one side demanding that the other side shut up.