INKSPOTS

Reminder to us all: ‘Liberty means responsibility’

Rick Norton Assoc. Editor
Posted 7/2/16

“What is the essence of America? Finding and maintaining that perfect, delicate balance between freedom ‘to’ and freedom ‘from.’”

— Marilyn vos Savant

American columnist, …

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INKSPOTS

Reminder to us all: ‘Liberty means responsibility’

Posted

“What is the essence of America? Finding and maintaining that perfect, delicate balance between freedom ‘to’ and freedom ‘from.’”

— Marilyn vos Savant

American columnist,

author and lecturer

(b. Aug. 11, 1946)

———

As we approach America’s “Big 2-4-0,” I am reminded that probably too many of us take freedom for granted; not because we don’t cherish it, but because we never lived without it.

I am also reminded of this: Most of us don’t give freedom a thought until either of two scenarios takes place. One, somebody tries to take it away; or two, somebody abuses it.

The latter raised its ugly head less than two weeks ago right here in our Southeast Tennessee home; and sadly enough, on the very soil of Bradley and Polk counties.

By now you know where I’m going with this ... the billboards. Yes, those billboards.

Compliments of an Ocoee businessman who hails originally from Miami, and who envisions himself one day as a congressman in Washington, D.C., our area was gut-punched by an Independent politician whose antics seemed more fitting of a slave-ship captain from the 18th and early-19th centuries.

Rick Tyler, who is credited with a string of unsuccessful political campaigns, captured local, regional, state and national headlines — maybe even international — when he funded the placement of two sleazy billboards recruiting followers, and votes, in his bid for the 3rd Congressional District seat now held by Chuck Fleischmann.

In case you missed hearing about them — and I doubt you did — one billboard evoked nightmares from America’s past with the message, “Make America White Again.” The other, in similar provocative fashion, taunted the visionary “I Have a Dream” plea made famous by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Under the words was an image of the White House surrounded by tiny Confederate battle flags.

I say “was” because, as we are told, the billboards were removed about as quickly as they were erected. Mr. Tyler claims they were dismantled by the billboard owners without his permission. Subsequently, he claims his rights to freedom of speech — as protected by the Constitution of the United States of America — were violated.

I’ll remind Mr. Tyler of what this newspaper reminded him of in an editorial published in the June 26 edition. In that opinion piece, it was pointed out freedom of speech is not absolute. It carries the weight of personal accountability.

George Bernard Shaw, an Irish playwright and politician — who history remembers as ruffling more than a few feathers because of his blunt tongue and terse pen — might have wrinkled a few more brows in 1905 when he wrote, “Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.”

Whether his point was well received, I cannot say. My first breath was not taken for another 50 years after his quill had opened the eyes of those within his surround. But it is reasonable to hope, among thinkers, that his words came as pause for thought. Among those whose brains were used more as simple filler for the cranial cavity, probably not so much.

“Liberty means responsibility” carries even more weight today. That’s because we have so many freedoms. And where there’s so much of anything, there’s bound to be abuses of almost everything.

We saw this happen with Mr. Tyler’s billboards. Our nation — our people — are so accustomed to living, and to loving, freedom every day that abusing this privilege probably gets just a little too easy.

We interpret freedom to mean we can say whatever we wish to say.

We interpret freedom to mean we can write whatever we want to write.

We interpret freedom to mean we can wear anything we choose to wear.

We interpret freedom to mean we can act however we wish to act.

We interpret freedom to mean we can do whatever we desire to do.

We interpret freedom to mean we can use words that offend against anyone we decide to offend.

We interpret freedom to mean we can hurt others while declaring “violations of my rights” if they respond by hurting us.

Truth is, all the above are true. Each is exactly what freedom is all about. It’s the freedom to do, to be, to say, to want and to cry foul.

But with freedom comes accountability. Liberty means responsibility.

Mr. Tyler says he’s just taking advantage of his rights to freedom of speech. Perhaps.

Mr. Tyler says he’s focused more on the big picture of righting an America that’s listing more toward the wrong. Perhaps.

Mr. Tyler says he’s just being misunderstood by those unprepared for such brutal honesty. Perhaps.

Mr. Tyler says he’s not a racist. Perhaps.

But his words sure don’t help his cause.

Let’s review that first billboard, the one erected along Highway 411 somewhere between Benton and Ocoee: “Make America White Again.” Hmmm. Sounds racist to me. Don’t bother with any further political spin, Mr. Tyler. Racism is racism. “Make America White Again” is racism.

Perhaps “Make America Whole Again” or “Make America Love Again” could be viable options ... if you truly are not a racist.

To their credit, some folks have suggested to the news media that we are falling for Mr. Tyler’s trickery ... that we’re giving him exactly what he wants: Publicity.

Probably.

The candidate himself has admitted it. He calls it an “end-around” play to circumvent media censorship.

That’s why some folks tell us “... just let it go, ignore the fool, like any pest he’ll finally get tired and slither away like a snake.”

Maybe.

But sometimes you can’t just look the other way. Sometimes you can’t just ignore. Sometimes you can’t just cover your ears, close your eyes and wait for the next two-legged calamity.

Sometimes you have to respond. Sometimes you have to react. Sometimes you have to call it what it is: Racism — the most vile of loathsome oddities to afflict mankind.

Using his brand of racism, Mr. Tyler has hurt many good people.

Using his brand of racism, Mr. Tyler has helped a troubled America take yet another step back.

Using his brand of racism, Mr. Tyler has secured his seat in the Back-Alley Hall of Shame.

Using his brand of racism, Mr. Tyler has opened yet another divide among a people whose biggest need is each other.

I don’t know Mr. Tyler. I have never met Mr. Tyler. I have not talked with Mr. Tyler. But I have read Mr. Tyler’s words. I have seen Mr. Tyler’s work. I have felt the pain of Mr. Tyler’s intolerance.

If I am wrong to condemn Mr. Tyler, then I am wrong. But I have little patience for short-sighted minds, and even less for narrow-minded words.

Perhaps one day we will talk. It is then I will ask him, “Why?” I will listen to his views. And I will give mine.

We won’t talk God. We won’t talk religion. We won’t talk the Golden Rule. We will talk people. Because that’s what this is all about: People.

People of color.

People of creed.

People of culture.

People of customs.

People of difference.

Should our dialogue stumble on “difference,” I will gladly explore its greatest virtue: Opportunity.

Please Mr. Tyler, no more billboards, no more racist propaganda, no more intended hurt.

And if you must seek political office, try taking a higher road — one whose shoulders are lined with the very people you need most ... people of difference, yet people who laugh and cry and love and die, just like you.

And just like me.

———

(About the writer: Rick Norton is an associate editor at the Cleveland Daily Banner. Email him at rick.norton@clevelandbanner.com.)

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