The October heat and Colorado’s wildfires are fanned by the increasingly hot (political) climate. Metaphoric opportunities abound. Colorado’s altitude means that we have the highest average elevation of any of the 50 American states. Our crowded print, televised, electronic and social media platforms, coupled with competition for your short attention spans, lead to strong expressions of identity in the contests to be decided. Those expressions can be as benign as hair color and body art, but as destructive as hate speech and burning crosses. Colorado should rise above the volatile politics of identity now showcased around the country.
Colorado can rise above the fray by demonstrating that Coloradans can express themselves and disagree, all within appropriate boundaries. We have our freedoms, our freedom of expression, and opportunities to show the flag, even in our state-regulated community associations. [See CCIOA § 106.5(a), (b) and (c)]. Those statutory enactments detail reasonable time, place and manner restrictions surrounding the display of flags and political signs. The idea is to balance one’s freedom of expression against the property rights and sensibilities of others. That is nothing new in our country. Many First Amendment disputes are resolved with reasonable time, place and manner restrictions, allowing all voices are heard without trampling on the rights of others. There are some good articles to read about the appropriate balance of expression versus property rights in the community association setting. (see Common Ground article.)
But the manner of expression we are witnessing goes beyond strident speech or even agitated political discourse, and has descended into thuggish stare downs, brawls and violence. It is disheartening to read articles detailing how political signs are trashed. Those are acts of cowardice and petty vandalism, not an expression of speech or politics – click here for a recent article on stolen and damaged political signs. Worse yet, were the riotous behaviors in Denver and Aurora, including window breaking, vehicle vandalism and fires, all in the false name of “speech.” That is not the Colorado way. We need to define ourselves by rising above the fray. Civilization requires civility.
My grandfather was a conscientious objector in Great Britain during World War I. He took a lot of flak from a lot of people over many years. When we talked about it, he shared some thoughts which I still remember. He was a gentle, yet determined intellect. One statement he would make to the people who were acting badly towards him was in essence: “Your conduct proves my point that violence is simply counterproductive, because I am even more convinced of my position after watching and listening to you.” Another thing he would said is: “The more you shout, the less I listen.” I’m no pacifist, and I don’t advocate that ethos for everyone. But our shared humanity, citizenship and our respective freedoms come with responsibilities. We deserve better behavior than trashed political signs, public scuffles, vandalism and thugs running wild in the street. Civilization requires civility. I hope we can all do better and show America that Colorado can rise above the fray