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Everyone is entitled to their opinion

Posted: October 12, 2008 6:03 p.m.
Updated: December 14, 2008 5:00 a.m.

It shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone reading this "Right Here, Right Now" column to find out I am a faithful and proud Republican.

I was 10 years old when Reagan was re-elected, and from that moment on, I was hooked on conservative politics.

The party of smaller government, lower taxes, a free-market economy, family values and a strong national defense resonated with my young, Midwest-bred heart.

I welcome any good-natured, spirited debate on political topics ranging from economic and social issues to candidate platforms and the Republican "brand."

I consider myself to be an outspoken but courteous advocate for my positions, and I pride myself on an ability to maintain respect for those with contrary views to my own, regardless of how heated the debate may become.

Unfortunately, not everyone shares this ability to maintain a level of decorum when political affiliations are contrary to their own.

Last week, as I was walking from my car in a local parking lot, I was noticing a number of McCain-Palin bumper stickers on the cars parked near my own.

For a relatively conservative community, I wasn't surprised, but I was proud that my car was one of those showing support for my chosen candidate.

Imagine my surprise when I came out after completing my errand and walked past the same cars and noticed that the stickers were no longer on the bumpers. Then I reached my car and noticed that my sticker had been removed, as well.

After a moment of anger, I started to think about how funny it is that someone was so threatened by my display of support that he or she felt it necessary to trespass against my personal property to rip off my sticker because he didn't agree with my selection of a candidate.

In fact, I found it so funny, I called a number of my conservative friends and neighbors and found out there is a prevailing trend in certain areas of this great city where conservative bumper stickers are commonly removed,Republican yard signs are stolen or destroyed and other "right-wing" promotional materials are being defaced. Then I was reminded about an occasion two years ago when the Santa Clarita Republican Headquarters was targeted by vandals who tagged the store front and destroyed the locks on the doors.

It amazes me that people can be so petty.

I am not naïve. I wouldn't suggest that certain petty and immature folks on my side of the aisle don't do the same thing to the opposition.

However, I don't quite understand how some choose to make their political statements by destroying the statements of others. It's just bad form.

The last time I checked, the First Amendment protects my right to free speech - the same way it protects yours - with certain limitations.

Like every other citizen, I have the right to voice my opinions, demonstrate my support for or against a particular cause or candidate, and engage in those spirited debates I enjoy so much.

However, the First Amendment does not give me the right to break a law set forth by the government, which includes trespass, disturbing the peace, destruction of property, assault and/or battery.

To the person who stole my sticker in that parking lot, and the others who think it appropriate to destroy the property of others: Your actions will not deter me or the others you are trying to silence.

I had a replacement sticker on my car that afternoon.

A new yard sign went up in my neighbor's yard after it was ripped up two weeks ago. Two years ago, the Republican headquarters was cleaned up within 48 hours with the help of dedicated volunteers.

Are these low-brow activities annoying? Yes.

Are the actions illegal? You bet. But will it make people reconsider their political positions or stop them from speaking out? No way.

Regardless of how the Nov. 4 election turns, we all need to live in this community.

As such, we need to get to a place where we can respect divergent views and contrary ideologies - we wouldn't stand for illegal behavior if directed toward another race, religion or national origin, so why do we stand for it based on political beliefs?

Brian Koegle is a local attorney. His column reflects his own views, not necessarily that of The Signal. "Right Here, Right Now" runs on Mondays in The Signal and rotates among local Republican writers.


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