Editor’s note: This is a question raised by a reader of the Chronicle this week:
Mr. Mulligan, I always feel that you’re an honest and intelligent man. You don’t show partiality toward any political party. My concern and my worry is that with all the changes that these people in Congress made, will this still be a free America like we were used to and that the country was founded on? I find some of the letters in the Chronicle that the people write in unfortunate. I can’t email something in, but maybe you could answer this simple question: I’m not a young girl anymore, but I would love the United States to stay free. My husband fought for it in Vietnam. My father fought for it in World War II — proud Americans. But it looks like some of the things that are going on are changing our country. This is a proud country with proud people. Please see if you can come up with an answer that might help me and a lot of other people that are worried. I know your answer is going to be bipartisan and not prejudiced. If you can’t answer, it is understandable, but I do look forward to you because I find you’re intelligent and fact-checkable. You check before you say; you seek facts before you speak and you don’t make up stories. I don’t want it sugarcoated. I’m frightened, I very frightened that we won’t be free in a few years and I’m not young enough to stand through it. I just had to ask you because I do feel confident in all your commentaries and your answers whenever you can. Thank you again and stay strong and bipartisan and true to your word, as you are.
And my answer:
Dear reader: Be afraid, but not frightened.
Be afraid that there are some folks in our country who are so self-righteous in their hatred that they will compromise the very foundations of our republic to achieve their short-term political goals.
But don’t be frightened because there are far more good and reasonable people in our nation who place high value on the institutions and constitutional structure that makes us the greatest nation on Earth. The good people far outnumber the radicals on both sides of the political spectrum. The majority of our citizens are not willing to sell out.
Be afraid of people who tell you that only Democrats are correct or that only Republicans have the righteous answers.
But don’t be frightened because the majority of Americans, the good and decent people of this nation, understand that both political parties filter the truth to fit their narrative. They are both skewed — and deep down we all know it. There are good and decent people on both sides of the debate, but neither faction has the franchise on truth.
Be afraid of the national news media that pretends to present you the truth through a biased filter in hopes of creating huge like-minded audiences so they can make millions for themselves and their corporations.
But don’t be frightened because we know that the news presented by the profit-crazed entities such as MSNBC, FOX News, CNN and others is not really news — it is mostly opinion about the news. It belongs in the same category as your brother-in-law at Thanksgiving dinner telling everyone what’s wrong with the country. The right response is: “Please pass the turnips.”
The local news media — like this newspaper — are part of the towns and cities where they reside. If they get off track — and we all do on occasion — the community will let us know about it.
Be afraid that some people are so radicalized that they believe they have the right to storm the U.S. Capitol, create mayhem, and injure the people inside.
But don’t be frightened because the majority is outraged and embarrassed by the thugs. Real Americans know that change happens through elections. Laws are changed by the legislative process and challenged in the courts. The process might be slow at times, but it is the best ever created. Thugs are losers and they go to jail.
Be afraid that some alleged demigods want to control the country by creating fear and hatred among the population.
But don’t be frightened because America is not made up of unknown people. We know these people because they are us.
There are 19,495 small towns in America. There are another 310 cities with populations over 100,000 people.
In each one of those towns and cities there are good people like Joe Meek, who serves as the mayor of Crystal River. Their schools are run by people like our Sam Himmel and Thomas Kennedy. And they have their own Ruthie Davis Schlabach and Jeff Kinnard steering their counties. They have law enforcement agencies managed by people like Mike Prendergast. They have leaders like Mayor Bob Plaisted and council member Cabot McBride in Inverness.
Each of those places have libraries and churches and food banks. The have business communities that have leaders like Josh Wooten and Ardath Prendergast. They have Boy Scouts, YMCAs and Boys and Girls Clubs. There are small businesses, Little League teams and dance lessons.
Don’t be frightened because together we are the backbone of America. There are 19,805 places just like our community.
We may root for different ball teams, elect people from another political party and attend different churches. But at the end of the day, we have much more in common with each other than you can ever imagine.
We all value our freedom and the basic foundations of our form of government. We will disagree about the specifics of how we are governed. We will argue with passion. But we will not forfeit our collective right to govern ourselves.
We don’t know each other’s names, but they are just like us.
But don’t be frightened.
We will climb out of our current problems because that is what we do. And we will be free.
Gerry Mulligan is the publisher of the Chronicle. Email him at email@example.com.