Ed. note: I penned this one after President Reagan died in 2004.
I’ve often wondered how the left co-opted the descriptor “tolerant.” To most people on my side of the fence, the average liberal is slightly more tolerant than a Gestapo member. After my latest experience in Toleranceville – that Left Coast hometown of mine, Seattle, Washington – I decided to wonder in column.
I must confess that what happened didn’t seem particularly Earth-shattering at first. Some clown ripped a “Reagan/Bush ’84” bumper sticker off my car. Putting it there was supposed to be my most visible step yet out of the ideological closet. There aren’t many “out” conservatives in these parts percentagewise, and being one is like being a cross-dressing Marine at boot camp – better to keep it on the down low. President Reagan’s death reminded me that a good American – like him — stands strong, resolute and proud. “My driver’s conservative,” the sticker would tell drivers behind me. “And he’s damn proud of it.”
It was bad enough that some yahoo took my sticker. What’s worse was that it only survived on my bumper for three hours. At most. I put it there at 3:30 pm. By 6:30, after driving all of one mile and parking my car on a very public street for about an hour, it was gone. So sometime between 5:30 and 6:30, some self-appointed guardian of All Things Fit for Public Viewing decided that my expression of Right Pride wasn’t so fit. Three hours. John Kerry takes longer to flip flop.
In hindsight, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. The left’s “Take Back America” theme is, at bottom, a message of vigilantism — President Bush stole their country under cover of night (via an election), and they have an inalienable right to take it back. Their political leaders have slightly more room for the right than National Socialists had for Jews in the early years. Indeed, Howard Dean said he wanted to break up the Fox News Channel on ideological grounds. And now Tom Harkin wants Rush Limbaugh off Armed Forces Radio.
Their foot soldiers are more belligerent. In my hometown, Tolerant Ones vandalized Starbucks stores at the WTO rally with the same vigor that young Nazis went after synagogues on Kristallnacht — and the police let them. A guy who lives a few miles north of me has had his car keyed, his house egged, and his mail box blown up – several times. His crime is having a “Bush/Cheney” sign in his front yard. In truth, the left’s message is “Take Back America . . . by any means necessary.” If those means happen to include vandalizing other people’s private property – so be it.
As troubling as losing my “Reagan/Bush ’84” sticker was, the reaction of my supposedly tolerant friends was even more so. One friend – she bright and articulate, but just this side of Karl Marx — said I should feel lucky: the Tolerant One could have keyed my car door or slashed my tires or busted my windows. To which I wondered aloud whether blacks in the South felt lucky when the KKK burned their houses instead of killing them altogether. Another card-carrying lefty pal suggested with a straight face that a fellow right-side-of-the-fencer took the sticker for his own private collection. To which I replied: it’s possible that John Kerry didn’t care about the net worth of his two multi-gajillionaire wives when he married them – but I doubt it. A fellow rightie straightened me out. She told me that conservative bumper stickers don’t actually go on bumpers anymore, at least in the Northwest. If you want it to last, you have to tape it to the inside of the car’s back window.
Don’t get me wrong. My world isn’t over – yet. If losing my six dollar “Reagan/Bush ’84” bumper sticker is the worst thing that happens to me, I’ll be okay. It’s still outrageous. In America, we’re supposed to be free to express ourselves – especially, our political selves. Other people are supposed to tolerate that expression. That is, more than anything else, the very essence of being “American.” If the best conservatives can hope for is to get by without their tires being slashed, then the war in Iraq isn’t the only war we should be worried about. Vandalizing private property wasn’t right when good ol’ boys were burning crosses in front yards, and it isn’t right now.
My fear is that this was a foreshadowing of something worse, like the banning of “insensitive” political signage altogether. Can’t happen in America, you say? We’re well on the way. In America today, many businesses, schools, apartment complexes and universities ban the American flag, lest some non-Americans feel offended. The Koran is required reading to get into the University of North Carolina (a public university), lest incoming freshmen be insensitive to the plight of fellow Muslim students. In many schools nationwide, fifth- and sixth graders are required to pray to Allah to make them “sensitive” to Muslim students post 9-11. Here in Seattle, municipal employees got the word from above not to wish co-workers “Merry Christmas,” lest they offend each other. All this in a country whose Constitution supposedly protects political and religious freedom. Is the specter of political signage being banned in certain “tolerant” towns – maybe Seattle — really so outlandish? Say, on “sensitivity” or “public safety” grounds? I don’t think so.
Funny thing is, if I was a homosexual and “Reagan/Bush ’84” was one of those rainbow stickers, the left would scream about gay intolerance and I’d be labeled a hate crime victim. If I was a black and someone ripped off my Black Power bumper sticker, they’d say my civil rights were violated. But you won’t see that kind of reaction when the victim of the self-appointed Bumper Sticker Police is — like me — a heterosexual, Christian, conservative, Reagan-loving white male. Out on the left, tolerance is a one way street.