This is a tale of two cities, one large, the other small. One marked by nightly violence, paint spraying, police action. In the other, people go about their business, gathering in an early evening ceremony at a city park for a tribute to local law enforcement.
In one, punks and frizzies throw paint on statutes, deface buildings, try to burn down a federal office building. The riots have gone on for days, following the death of a black man at the hands of police in a distant city.
In the other, the city park is quiet most of the day. People walk about the summer trees, the monuments, maybe have lunch at a picnic table. In the evening, hundreds show up to pay their respects to our law enforcement, first responders, fire fighters. The press coverage is limited, almost non-existent, an event taken for granted, if at all.
The speeches are short. There are no protests of any kind. No yelling and screaming about how America is a lie, a racist, sexist, depraved land with a horrible history. No wails of victimhood. No talk of how government is a “swamp” which just needs to be drained. Just respect for those who keep us safe, day and night.
A week ago Thursday, in Twin Falls, Idaho, hundreds of people gathered before an aging bandshell to praise and give thanks for the bounty of this valley and the security our police and others provide. They go out every day, not sure they will return to waiting, loving families, safe and sound. (TN, 7/3).
The same evening, barely five hundred miles away in Portland, Oregon, shirtless vandals defaced statues, buildings, bridges, businesses, churches, called the police names, called for the destruction of America.
Think about it. In the freest nation on earth, in perhaps the freest state in the nation, Idaho people gather to exercise their rights to speech and assembly. In the other city, hoodlums try to take down the government which protects these rights for all.
Count me among the old-fashioned here, but it seems to me America has been pretty darn good for most everyone, certainly compared to the rest of the world. And yet, week after week, anger wells up on both the right and the left.
Where were their parents when these young folks were growing up? What were their teachers feeding them? Their college professors? Did they all miss the idealistic faith in the nation, the working for something rather than the entitlement to it, the benefits of peace and security? Where did they learn about personal responsibility as well as about their personal rights and freedoms?
In short, what do the screamers and yellers on both the right and left have to scream about? Civil liberties? They’re more secure than anywhere, thanks to law enforcement. Freedom of assembly? No problem, as long as its peaceful. Press? You can write or publish just about anything you want.
Our governor is a measured individual, a reasonable man, good at heart. Yet some call him a tyrant for a decision promoting the general welfare of all. Our legislators mostly do the right thing. Sure, there are fanatics everywhere, even among legislators.
The death of one man a thousand of miles away cannot be the only cause. No, it seems rooted in the culture, of people walking the streets aimlessly, without purpose or good intent. It is as if the streets of Portland are somehow dehumanizing zones of human depression.
Some while away the hours in bars, nursing their angers and hatreds. Others plan protests against a government they call oppressive because it requires different perspectives, points of view, respect.
Who taught them to hate America so? And why do we not see this in Twin Falls, where people gather out of respect for each other? Why is one so different from the other?
I could speculate more as to the answers, but I do know this, that America today is tottering on an edge with forces of both left and right trying to pull us down and apart. It is not the country I grew up in.
How can we get this right? Certainly not by riots and mayhem, nor by rants and diatribes about oppression and victimhood. Compromise is a dirty word in politics to some today, but the Founding Fathers knew that there had to be give and take, or there would be no new nation.
Whether you live in Twin Falls or Portland, human nature is the same. The setting is the difference. I, for one, prefer Twin Falls, where respect for law enforcement abounds. Portland? It’s ok, for an occasional stop at Powell’s Books, some serious people watching on the light rail, for restaurants and a nice museum or two, but sadly, without a quality sports team. But that’s another story.
Stephen Hartgen, Twin Falls, is a retired five-term Republican member of the Idaho House of Representatives, where he served as chairman of the Commerce & Human Resources Committee. Previously, he was editor and publisher of The Times-News (1982-2005). He is the author of the new book “Tradition & Progress: Southern Idaho’s Growth Since 1990.” This column was first published in www.idahopoliticsweekly.com. He can be reached at Stephen_Hartgen@hotmail.com
Catch the latest in Opinion
Get opinion pieces, letters and editorials sent directly to your inbox weekly!