A Biden/Harris sign was recently stolen from my front lawn. Gun sales are increasing.  People are reluctant to discuss politics for fear of losing friends and family.  Extremist groups, militia, Proud Boys and others are making their mark through violence and intimidation.  Peaceful demonstrations turn into riots.  Vehemence and viciousness are causing divisiveness, intimidation, and hate.  Our great Democracy is at stake.  

A Republican rally at the Pulaski Town Park in Pulaski for Claudia Tenney was held with Trump supporters.  Will Barclay and other Republican officials  attended.  A few counter demonstrators were also there, and intimidation was witnessed against a woman carrying an opposing sign.  

At a nearby location in Altmar, Joe Biden is hanging in effigy near a sign for the “Altmar Redneck Militia.”   There is also a picture of a man kneeling with what looks like an automatic rifle pointed at a sign that says “America Love it or Leave it.” Many other unsavory signs and messages were on display.   I am embarrassed and outraged that people, especially children, must go past this demonstration of hate and violence.  These messages are totally unacceptable.  

Recently, an anti-government militia group was stopped from kidnapping  Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and overthrowing the Michigan government.   More threats against other  government officials were exposed.  These domestic terrorist groups are more prevalent in the United States than ever before according to the FBI.  They have promised more domestic upheaval.  President Trump has refused to denounce these groups but stated “stand down and stand by.” This is real fear.  

Gun and ammunition sales have skyrocketed.  The spring of 2020 saw a spike of three million more firearm sales for personal security than would have normally been sold (Brookings, July 13, 2020). The increase in sales is attributed to new gun owners who have never before had an interest in owning guns.  However, they are now afraid of the increased violence  by extreme people who own guns.  Since when did so many become fearful to live in America?  This has become a vicious cycle.  Is this our Democracy?

Some blame the increased gun sales and violence on the recent Black Lives Matter demonstrations.  Over 90 percent of BLM  protests were peaceful with all races involved showing support.  The burning, looting, violence, destruction and in a few cases killing are not, and never will be, condoned by reasonable people.  It harms, not helps.  Questions about what led to the violence, who were the perpetrators, what groups infiltrated these peaceful demonstrations is still unknown.  Do not confuse peaceful demonstrations with resulting riots and violence.  Peaceful demonstrations are guaranteed in a Democracy, not violence.  

As a Democrat and a liberal, I am more than tired of the blaming, name calling, lies, exaggerations, hate speech and degradation of the term liberal coming from this administration and its followers.  We are not “terrorists” or extremists or socialists. Therefore, let me be clear about the term Liberal.

Liberalism is, “Of, pertaining to, based on, or advocating liberalism, especially the freedom of the individual and governmental guarantees of individual rights and liberties.” Another extension of that is “….non-violent modification of political, social, or economic institutions to assure unrestricted development in all spheres of human endeavor, and governmental guarantees of individual rights and civil liberties…..favorable to progress or reform, as in political or religious reform.”

The definition of democracy is, “government by the people; a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people exercised directly by them or their elected agents….a state of society characterized by formal equality of rights and privileges…social equality…common people as distinguished from any privileged class.”

The terms “freedom of the individual” and “equality” are seen constantly in the definitions.  As a Liberal and a Democrat, I believe in tenants, such as freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom to make my own medical decisions, freedom to be treated equally under the law, and freedom to exist in a safe, healthy environment—freedom from fear.

However, freedom comes with a cost.  It comes with individual responsibility to ensure that all others have those same freedoms.  We must ensure that we maintain a unified America whatever our policy differences are.  We have a responsibility to make sure we can live without fear, without the threat of extremist groups, and without the hatred that is being touted, especially against “liberalism.”  If this is to be a true democracy, then all must be represented. Vote as if your and your families’ lives depend on it.  It does.

Suzanne Stout is a contributing columnist for The Palladium-Times. She lives in Fulton.

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