Say what you mean with words and actions


Randy Riley - Contributing Columnist



We were driving home from dinner at Damon’s on Sunday evening. It was a fairly late, dark night on Locust Street. Traffic was light. We chatted about the really tense, busy week we finally had behind us.

As we crossed the Wood Street intersection, I noticed the back of the car directly in front of us. I mentioned to Debbie, “That guy must have a lot to say.”

It wasn’t a large SUV or a big sedan. It was a smallish, black hatchback. I started counting bumper stickers and gave up counting at 25. Most of them were small and hard to read.

It’s usually fun to read bumper stickers. You can find out a lot about a person by reading their bumper stickers; what is their political persuasion, where have they traveled, do they have a sense of humor or are they serious about life.

One of the goofiest bumper stickers I’ve seen parked around town is, “I’d kill for a Nobel Peace Prize.” It may not be politically correct, but it made me laugh.

The back of this little, black car was plastered with various small bumper stickers. Some looked like the small oval stickers that make you wonder where they went on their vacation. OBX – means Outer Banks. PIB – means Put-in-Bay. Several of his bumper stickers were oval shaped. It was hard to take in all the information on so many ovals. Without riding his tailpipe, I couldn’t tell where this traveler had been.

All I could tell about this guy was that he liked bacon. Yep, he was sporting a bumper-sticker for bacon lovers. That, and based on the sheer volume of messages on the rear of car, he apparently has a lot to say.

Thinking about it later, I like it when people exercise their First Amendment right to say what’s on their minds. There are any number of forums for expressing an opinion — bumper stickers, letters to the editor, blogs, Facebook. For this guy, the rear end of his car appeared to be his favorite form of expression.

Our Founding Fathers and the framers of the constitution were brilliant. I truly believe they were divinely inspired in the work they did to craft the documents on which this country was established.

Here is the complete wording of the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Short and simple. That is part of the beauty of their message. If Congress was tasked with writing the First Amendment today, it would run on page after page after page. It would take them volumes to say the same thing.

The brevity of expression that our Founding Fathers mastered has been lost over the past few centuries. Rather than saying exactly what they mean and meaning exactly what they say, today’s politicians ramble on and on about issues.

Their goal seems to be focused more on saying what the voters might want to hear, instead of what the politician really believes. They ramble on and on instead of saying what they might really think would best for the country.

During the presidential campaign season, we see this time after time. A memorable example of this was when President Bush (#41) repeated at nearly ever campaign stop, “Read my lips. No new taxes.”

Once he was in the office and explored every means of boosting the economy and keeping the nation fiscally solvent, he relented and signed a measure that caused taxes to increase. That campaign promise and his actions after he was elected probably cost him the re-election in 1992.

We are blessed to live in a country where we can say nearly anything we want to say. The First Amendment allows us to express ourselves in nearly any manner we choose. It is not illegal to lie. Not everything you hear on the news or read on-line is true. Except when it comes to providing false testimony to police officers or in court, it is not illegal to lie.

Our difficult task is to determine when the political campaigners are telling us what they truly believe to be true; as opposed to saying what they feel will get them more votes. Do politicians lie? Do politicians try to deceive us? Oh, yes.

Good luck, everyone. Pay close attention to what you hear. Use your God-given intelligence to determine the truth behind the words you hear. We ultimately have to decide for ourselves who to believe and who to vote for.

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Randy Riley

Contributing Columnist