As the United States celebrates the Fourth of July this week, we can’t help but reflect on some of the things that make this country great.
Our First Amendment right of freedom of speech probably is the first thing that comes to mind for this columnist.
Over the years we can recall many instances of how elected and appointed officials have tried to stifle citizens’ freedom of speech — at municipal meetings, school board meetings and public hearings of all sorts.
We’ve heard many reasons given by those officials who try to suppress freedom of speech during public comment periods, but more often than not, they just don’t care what the public has to say or they are so arrogant and thin-skinned they can’t handle criticism.
Or perhaps they’ve got something to hide and are afraid to be questioned about what supposedly is the public’s business.
We believe citizens really need to get out and see their elected and appointed officials in action. Many might be surprised at the highhandedness and pompousness of their elected representatives.
It’s evident that some of these officials truly believe it’s all about them as they repeatedly insist on telling those present what a great job they’re doing. The self-congratulatory comments and verbal backslapping are downright embarrassing.
In most cases, those who claim they’re doing a great job for taxpayers are in reality doing an abysmal job of performing their duties.
But some elected officials and boards actually welcome public comment and genuinely are interested in hearing what the public has to say because it will help them fulfill their obligations to the people they serve.
They’ll go to great lengths to allow public comment without time limits and without a litany of topics that can’t be discussed.
While freedom of speech helps make this country great, it also carries with it a huge responsibility.
Many times we’ve seen residents get up in front of a board and display a total lack of knowledge about the subject on which they’re pontificating. It’s embarrassing both to them and those who have to suffer through their ignorance.
But perhaps that’s the beauty of freedom of speech, it gives anyone the right to make a total ass of himself or herself in front of a large group of people.