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Reader Opinion: Stand up

Speech intended to cause fear in others, to intimidate and dissuade others from exercising the First Amendment rights of speech and associated rights of assembly, of equal protection under the laws and of petitioning our government, which are assured to all of us, present significant challenges to American democracy. Speech we find to be deeply offensive to who we are as a people must be protected, but should also be publicly called out for what it is so that all can consider that speech's content on its merits.

In this sense, such hate-inspired speech, characterized by bullying with personal invective and disparagement, including against religious beliefs, disabilities, race and gender, and, remarkably, calls for incarceration of political opponents and the rounding up of those who exercise basic American rights, should be stood up to by Americans across the political spectrum, whether appeals to the basest of human instincts are spoken from the highest office in the land or from Main Street.

We will always differ, but the strength of America comes from respecting the fundamental integrity of our brothers and sisters and from protecting their absolute right to disagree with us. The politics of fear, conducted by threats, belittling, prejudice, incivility and ethical immorality, are not the politics of our American democracy.

And we each should consider, and act upon, these words found in the United States Holocaust Museum:

"In Germany, the Nazis came for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time there was no one left to speak."

John Erickson

Brainerd