Tom Stangl

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

I really like that quote. To me, it encapsulates what it means to be an American. We may not agree on issues, but we all understand the value of the right to be able to express what we believe. In doing some research on the origins of the phrase, it appears that it is widely attributed to Voltaire, the French intellectual who often spoke against the misuse of power. There is no evidence that he actually said it.

We just completed the commemoration of our Independence Day. I hope you had a wonderful time with friends and family enjoying the freedom to do as you like, within the bounds of the law. 

We are blessed beyond understanding to be living in the United States of America at this time in history. We enjoy unprecedented prosperity and lifespans continue to increase in length. 

While we have many things to be thankful for, in my opinion we need to remain vigilant and tolerant of the opinions of others. Tolerance, it should be noted, doesn’t mean acceptance. This privilege is constantly under attack by well-intended, but narrow-minded people on both ends of the political spectrum. 

With numerous instantaneous methods at our disposal, it’s easier now that ever to spread opinions. It’s a booming industry as we become more intolerant of the views of others. The advent of the 24 hour cable television news cycle has, in my opinion, provided great fuel to intolerance. Social media, rarely, if ever policed, has become a fertile ground of intolerance as well. We now have the power to espouse our views to people who voluntarily follow us with precious few consequences for our words or actions.

It’s about here where I need to admit that I am currently doing the exact thing that I am criticizing others for doing. In fact, I have a space to do this 52 times a year. That’s eminently true. I do my best to walk the line and offer common sense solutions. I am happy to discuss my views with anyone and hope that I am found to be tolerant.

There are people who espouse truly abhorrent views, preaching hate and intolerance. As a society, we do a pretty good job rooting these people out and taking away their extended audiences.

But this is a very tricky exercise. What’s abhorrent to one person may be gospel truth to someone else.

For decades, people have been divided over large social issues like abortion and gay rights. Each side has dug in and painted the other side as the enemy. The truth on these issues is personal and private to every individual. Those who fight for their viewpoint should, in my opinion, try to understand the motivations of the individual. Tolerance is the first step to understanding. Understanding, it should be noted, doesn’t mean acceptance, either. But we need to respect the rights of people to have their viewpoint.

When we do this one simple thing, in my opinion, we become a stronger nation. By thinking for ourselves and not allowing others to determine what is right and wrong we cannot be divided.

I believe we need to do this now more than ever.

As always, I welcome your comments. You can reach me by email at, telephone 715-268-8101 or write me at P.O. Box 424, Amery, WI, 54001.

Thanks for reading; I’ll keep in touch. Feel free to do the same.

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