The following editorial appeared in the Aug. 29 edition of the Record-Journal:
The free exchange of ideas is cherished in the United States. It’s something the nation draws strength from, and it’s something worth defending.
But what happened recently in Cheshire was not so much a free exchange, but a disruption, and as such it should be condemned.
The way to get your point across ought not to involve shouting profanities or hectoring officials, but that’s what happened when Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont came to Cheshire for a back-to-school roundtable discussion.
Things “turned sour” at Highland Elementary School when Dr. Deidre Gifford, Connecticut’s acting public heath commissioner, said that those not vaccinated would be required to show a weekly negative COVID-19 test to go to work or school. A Lamont executive order, expiring Sept. 30, requires that masks be worn in schools.
While officials were attempting to answer questions, members of the public began to shout. The shouted comments included “I can’t hear you, take off your mask” and “Are we in Nazi Germany?”
Attempts to quiet the crowd proved fruitless, so Cheshire Superintendent of Schools Jeff Solan abruptly ended the question-and-answer session. “While we tried to have some sort of decorum, it was incredibly disappointing that a few of Cheshire’s residents decided to be so disrespectful,” said Solan.
Disappointing, certainly, but it was also embarrassing and shameful.
The disrespectful behavior continued after the meeting. Lamont had to be escorted out as protesters continued to shout profanities. It became what state Rep. Liz Linehan described as a “dangerous situation.”
“Our society relies on a free exchange of ideas, respect, and listening to each other’s point of view and perspectives,” she said. “Unfortunately, a few individuals prevented that from happening today.”
The gathering became a lesson in how not to behave. Now it’s time to learn from that lesson.