When Dissent Is Silenced Freedom No Longer Exists

With all of the problems and apprehension we are experiencing during these recent and challenging times, a number of groups have evolved that want to stand up and have their voices heard. If we agree with their message we consider them mainstream; if we disagree we consider them to be dissenters. The founders of this great country faced the same ordeal back in the 1700’s. Our citizens were being subjected to many laws, taxes, regulations and hardships administered by a heavy handed and somewhat unbending monarchy located thousands of miles away.

The result was a significantly large number of people gathering together to make known their feelings. Not all sought the same outcome. Some wanted to remain loyal British subjects while others desired to be governed by their own people in their new land. While it was certain that the bearers of both the philosophies were sincere and dedicated to their personal desires and individual loyalties, they ultimately came together and created the greatest groundswell of dissent of modern times. The results were The Declaration of Independence and the establishment of our nation.

The first statement of the Declaration declares “…a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them…” The ability to dissent has been an absolute necessity in developing the country we call our home today. Names like Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin and Patrick Henry were listed amongst those first brave dissenters whose voices changed the way people were allowed to live and prosper. Others followed like Abraham Lincoln, Susan B. Anthony and Martin Luther King, Jr.

The voice of dissent is imperative in a society that is truly governed “for and by the people.” When concerns arise that result in differences of opinions between people of good faith, it is incumbent upon those people to air those differences in an open and non-threatening environment where fair and reasonable conclusions may be obtained. Emotion and strength of convictions will frequently result in spirited and emotional presentations which, for the most part, are natural and healthy.

The danger arises when those people of good faith, in an attempt to prevail, resort to name-calling and character assassination to further their causes. The attendees at some of the recent town hall meetings have been characterized as thugs, mobs and un-American by a number of senior government officials. It is difficult to imagine a mob of thugs consisting mostly of senior citizens and stay at home mothers. It is equally difficult to imagine anybody accusing individuals who have served in foriegn wars to protect our country, as peace officers and firefighters to protect our lives property, and as doctors and nurses to protect our health as un-American.

Name-calling and character assassination are not dissent. They are virtually always the result of not having a reasonable or prudent response to a difference of opinion. Their sole purpose is to silence dissent. Without dissent citizens are denied critical information and input. Loss of information and input results in loss of individual choice. Without choice freedom will cease to exist.