My Encounter with Free Speech

This morning I walked over to mail a package.  Conveniently the post office is right next to my office.

Stock Photo of the Consitution of the United States and Feather QuillPeriodically, on the sidewalk right outside the post office, there are  ginormous posters (yes, plural) of President Obama with a “hitler moustache” drawn in and signs that read “Impeach Obama”.  I always walk past and ignore them.  Today I had fit of insanity.

 I said (nicely) to the young “man” (I use that term advisedly)  at the petition table something to the effect: “I admire your passion and time commitment. Perhaps you might think about someday directing that toward feeding hungry children or . . . “.   Before I could say another word I was showered with contemptuous and devaluing comments. He ended by saying, “If you aren’t going to sign the petition or give $100 (yup, $100) to get rid of Obama get out of here, don’t waste my time”.

That (in hindsight) was the wisest thing he said to me.  At this point I was, I admit, curious to see his response to logic: “According to the constitution, if you impeach Obama, Joe Biden is the president”.

“We’ll get rid of him too.  Quit wasting my time and get out of here”, he angrily repeated as he turned his back to me.

I smiled and left.  Smiled at both his and my naiveté.

Back in my office (admittedly a bit shaken by his vitriol) to calm myself I read a favorite Baha’i prayer for humanity.  Here’s an excerpt:

“O Thou Kind Lord! . . . Unlock the gates of true understanding . . . gather all  people beneath the shadow of Thy bounty and cause them to unite in harmony, so that they may become  as the rays of one sun, as the waves of one ocean, and as the fruit of one tree . . .”  ‘Abdu’l-Baha

I know the young man wasn’t listening but I’m sure his soul heard.

10 comments on “My Encounter with Free Speech

  1. Having both been involved in an extreme organization and having a family full of them, I will attest that logic is the last thing you would want to use in a conversation like that.
    Getting involved in any such conversation is a commitment. As tempting as it is, it really takes grit not to react to the provocation, or try to say something that will initiate critical thinking when someone has been committed to a cause for years. The thinking phase is long gone.
    Assuming you might want some “advice”, let me say that I have learned to avoid counter-points at all costs. Just do not go there. If you are willing to commit to the hour or so it will take to exhaust the other person’s sermons, stick with a tack of simply asking “why?” and take sincere interest in the answers.
    “Why do you believe that?”
    “Who wrote that?”
    “Why do you trust them?”
    And again – do not get into the logic” of their arguments. Make it your mission to learn what they really believe. If you really must, go with: “that does not make sense, maybe you could explain some more”.
    I can share more if you are interested.


    • Robert,
      It would have been more interesting (rather than “soul shaking”) if I had known what you suggest beforehand. At this point I’ve chosen to avoid fanatics of most persuasions – I’ve neither time nor energy to waste!


  2. They park in front of post offices happens here too. There must be some federal law that allows them to do it. I just ignore them or say I’m an atheist (let them figure out what that means or has anything to do with American politics.)
    Good luck.
    A zealot, a fanatic, a madman, or a bigot, what ever cause they support will never stray from their focus or party lines.


  3. I am always amazed at the ignorance of the populace. Whether or not I agree with the policies of the current administration do these people actually think the process of impeachment would be viable through that petition?? Didn’t he read what it takes to impeach a President? Why I love people….the short story. 🙂


  4. Good for you! Wish I’d been there to witness the interaction.
    That particular prayer is one of my favorites also – thanx for reminding me to read it more often!
    See you soon!


  5. Applaud your intention to engage the young man exercising his 1st Amendment rights (though some don’t really appreciate that amendment’s true meaning or deserve it’s protection), but living in Orange County, you might consider that it could be reasonable to have a different level of expectation for logical discourse at an impeachment petition table. Real dialogue with anyone on the extreme right or left is not a highly likely possibility.


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