The free speech conundrum…

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"So go to the fair this year. It is stellar and spectacular. Engage in conversations with strangers. I do every year, and I love it."

It was a great day at the Minnesota State Fair! The weather was perfect, the food was unhealthy - yet delicious, and the people were for the most part, very friendly. The twelve days of the Minnesota State Fair is a time when most all people are on their best behavior. What about the politics discourse? Oh, that can wait until the Great Minnesota Get Together is over. After all, we are all Minnesotans - right?
Before I answer that question, a bit of a diversion. Guess what the main topic of discussion was today at the fair? The drop dead gorgeous weather? The new Pronto Pub location? The Vikings? Nope - none of those. It was the unbelievable traffic getting to the fair. I mean, come on, it is always bad. But this year? It was like total gridlock at times. So bad, just about everyone was late.
Then it hit me why it was so bad today. It was that dang Donald Trump! When Obama was President, and we had so many people out of the workforce, traffic was only a dull roar. However, now that President Trump has the economy hotter than a pistol, most everyone who wants a job, has a job. Ergo - much more traffic. It is no longer a dull roar - it is a loud roar. I know, I know. That is a good problem for us to have.
As we were leaving the MN GOP booth, some woman was trying to get a picture in front of it. Okay, big deal. But she also had her middle finger up in the picture, so it was right in front of the flag and the MN GOP sign. One of the candidates saw what she was doing, and got in the way of her picture. He asked her to please stop. She told him she had every right to do take that picture, and asked him to get out of the way. She said it was a freedom of speech issue, and the candidate who tried to stop her, was infringing on her freedom to take that picture.
We walked away before I saw how this was resolved. But here is my conundrum. How would I have handled it? First off, like I said earlier, these are the twelve days when Minnesotans really come together as friends and neighbors. The "blood-fest" of politics can wait until the fair is over. So what this woman was doing was provocative, and violated that sacred trust.
On the other hand, with the liberty we all enjoy, she had every right to take that picture. Why? It is like taking a knee when the anthem is played. Folks who do that, have every right to disrespect our flag or anthem. By the same token, when many of us see that, we have every right to change the channel or turn the TV off.
The First Amendment. Funny, we end up talking a lot about the Second Amendment - and we should. But the First Amendment keeps us grounded. A good friend of Voltaire uttered a vary famous quote many years ago - "I disagree with what you said, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." Bingo! That is what makes us different. That is a part of the American Experiment. We can speak our heart, no matter how vile or profane it might be. And people have the right to listen to you, or turn their backs and walk away.
Bottom line? I would have let the woman take the picture. I then would have asked her what it was about our flag, or the MN GOP sign which she did not like. What would cause her to do such a profane thing. Folks - this is the playing field. It is great when we get together and exchange warm fuzzies with each other. But the playing field to win people over is right in front of us. We can win people over, with the ideas we have. No more, no less.
So if you have the chance, go to the fair this year. It is stellar and spectacular. Engage in conversations with strangers. I do it every year, and I love it. But please remember this - every opportunity to engage with someone exhibiting inappropriate or tawdry behavior, is just that - and opportunity.
Not too long ago, MN GOP changed their motto to the "Growth and Opportunity Party". The growth thing we got covered - Hello? The traffic today? But the opportunities pop up all the time. How to we turn the state RED? By showing the Blue Team, they will be much better off wearing a different color. And that my friends, all starts with us.