I was an impressionable kid of 13 years old when I was able to see my first president.
On Nov. 1, 1974 I attended an appearance of President Gerald R. Ford at the Fresno Air Terminal. I was excited that my parents cleared the day so we could drive to Fresno and see the new president, who had been in office since that August. He scheduled in Fresno to stump for an embattled Congressman Bob Mathias who was facing re-election.
Seeing Air Force One roll in front of the assembled crowd was indeed impressive. There were bands, cheering and applause and national media types like ABC's Tom Jarrill in the stands. Once the president was on the raised platform I could see him between heads and bodies. The crowd went crazy and the president started talking.
Midway through Ford's speech things got ugly. I remember feeling embarrassment and anger that a loud contingency of farm laborers showed up to chant "Bull sh--, bull sh--, bull sh--," over and over and over. They got so loud that President Ford had to stop speaking momentarily.
Everyone around the group issued a stinging rebuke and all sorts of "Shhhh!" sounds in an attempt to stop them. People were getting angry toward the protestors.
I know what it's like to be in a crowd of protestors and I don't think it's respectful, especially if it's the president. It's okay to disagree but it's disrespectful to chant and shut down any political event.
We've certainly come a long ways in this country. President Theodore Roosevelt gave a stern lecture to a young boy who disrespected him during his 1903 Yosemite visit by calling him "Teddy." Disrespect is supercharged today.
When Democrat Michael Dukakis came to Modesto in 1988, I don't recall the same disrespect leveled at him by those on the right. Nor do I remember protests when Dick Gephardt came to Graceada Park in the 1980s.
I'm sure that both sides can get out of control at times but I cannot remember this level of hatred targeted at Donald Trump and his supporters. There is an organized effort underway to infiltrate Trump rallies and disrupt rallies. Things got so carried away with the left in Chicago that Friday evening's rally had to be cancelled by police who feared violence would erupt.
We don't have to remind our readers that Chicago is already a violent place. It's an urban zoo where 125 were killed in the first 10 weeks of this year. In fact, one website reports that someone is shot and killed in Chicago every 14 hours and 29 minutes. Guns aren't the problem - it's all the crazy young anarchists running around doing the killing. Last year street violence saw 488 killed there. Little wonder that when Trump tried to take his message close to the city they shut the event down. Black Lives Matter successfully hijacked a Bernie Sanders rally in August and Trump merely let people know it would not tolerated by him. It's about time someone gave them hell, to borrow a Harry Truman era saying.
The anger and vitriol is at its peak. My own son - who is about as far from me politically as possible - posted on Facebook over the weekend: "If you vote for Donald Trump you will not have my respect. He must be stopped." He called Trump a racist. He took down his post after I responded with: "Ben Carson and Herman Cain support a racist? How does that work, Bret?" I think he realized how mean and ugly and nasty he sounded.
I would never think of attending a Hillary Clinton with the intent to shout her down in disrespect. I just wouldn't go. But it seems like tolerance is taught one way. The left tries to silence, shut down and disrupt those on the right. When have you seen it play the other way?
It seems to be a hallmark of leftists. When they don't want you doing something, rather than leave you alone in a free society, they try to ban you from doing it. Like smoking or drinking sodas.
Political protests are nothing new. I remember how Hubert Humphrey was dogged by anti-war protestors and how he got after the media for fanning the flames of political discord. You see, the national media loves coverage the violence enacted by the protestors, because it allows them to make Trump the villain. While Obama has been tolerant of leftist protestors who have disrupted his events - when he should have shut them down - Trump is not putting up with it. I say good for him.
I like what Judge Jeanine Pirro said on Fox News Channel about the Trump protests: "Since when if you state an opinion are you responsible for someone else's reaction? Since when if you verbally lean right, are you responsible for the left's physical reaction? Since when do you have the right to interrupt my First Amendment right to listen to a candidate for the highest office in the land? This is America, not the Soviet Union. This is America. You cannot prevent me from speaking or listening. You cannot censor speech. Free speech is guaranteed. It's why our founding fathers made it their very first amendment to the law of the land. It's what distinguishes us from communist countries and totalitarian regimes."
She noted that "your free speech is not more important than mine. Your free speech, if it differs from mine, doesn't mean that you're right and I'm wrong and therefore I must be silenced. But that's what the left tried to do in Chicago...."
Maybe Chicago and other inner cities need to do a better job at teaching rudimentary principles of American history and how to be better citizens. Chicago schools might teach them how to get out of the hood where murders happen almost daily. Education is key, folks, not playing the part of anarchists shutting down political events.
In 2008 the right didn't threaten violence against Obama and try to shut down his candidacy even though he was more of a threat to the American way of life than ever before.
This political climate is becoming scary. A number of my friends have expressed concern that Trump could become the target of something far more sinister than shutting down a rally.
If you don't like Donald Trump, fine. Don't vote for him. But stay the hell away from him and those who do like him. This is America.
How do you feel? Let Jeff know by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org