December 4, 2007

Courage of Your Convictions

Good neighbor Lorraine Collins is a free-lance journalist. She and her husband Keith have lived the world over -- including Singapore and London -- but now they're retired and back home in South Dakota. They live in Spearfish. Lorraine was kind enough to let us use one of her recent columns from the Black Hills Pioneer.


A while ago I received a phone call from a fellow who had read something I wrote in this paper. He said liked what I had to say, and then he went on to discuss various things in the community that he was unhappy about. “What did you say your name was?” I asked. “I didn’t say,” he answered. Then he said he was writing a letter to the City Council about some of these things but he wasn’t going to sign it because he had some relatives who might get in trouble if he did. He sent me a copy of the letter but there was no return address.

In a sense, this fellow, right-minded person though he may be, is in my opinion just like the guy who arranged to give $750,000 to State Senator Roger Hunt to fight a ballot initiative campaign, but who now is hiding behind what may be a loop hole in the law. He is reported to be afraid of “violence” if anyone knows who he is. The issue he opposed concerned abortion rights, and I watched that campaign closely. I don’t recall that there was ever any violence. Once I did attend a meeting that featured the Rapid City doctor who was supporting abortion rights, and as a precaution the sponsoring group asked that a policeman be nearby, just in case. There was a brief and very discreet police presence, but it wasn’t needed. One man showed up to argue against the doctor, but he was definitely not violent. This doctor had endured weeks of pickets in front of his office, which must have been unpleasant, but he never came to harm because of publicly stating his convictions.

In that same campaign, I also observed an event on the BHSU campus when some anti-abortion people from out of state came in their bus and set up a big display, so people who disagreed with them organized their own group to oppose them. There the two opposing forces stood, a few yards apart. Now and then the local supporters of abortion rights would go over to talk to the people who came on the bus, and there seemed to be vigorous discussion, but there was certainly no violence.

So, I wonder, just what is that anonymous guy with all the money afraid of? And also, what is the fellow who called me afraid of? Believe it or not, I do know how hard it is sometimes to speak one’s mind. It can be scary, and uncomfortable, but after a pretty long time of speaking my mind and sometimes being nervous, I can report that I have never felt in danger of my life, or even my living.

Many years ago I saw a sign in a store that said, “I have to make money from my friends, because my enemies don’t come in here.” This may have been a subtle way of telling us not to ask for a discount just because we knew the owner or belonged to the same church or lodge, but it also accepted the fact that perhaps those who were of a different opinion, religion, political affiliation, might avoid doing business there unless they had to, and the shop owner realized that. He accepted it.

Journalists do get murdered, but not, except for one or two spectacular cases in the last forty years, in the United States. Political leaders and opposition members do get murdered, but not in South Dakota. We in this nation and this state and this county do not have much to fear from those who don’t agree with us. In many countries around the world people do die because of their adherence to their beliefs. We’ve seen the image of the young man standing in front of a tank in Tiananmen Square. We’ve seen people under house arrest in Burma, imprisoned in South America, tortured in many countries because they disagreed with the people in power. Compared to that, just what do we have to fear in South Dakota or Lawrence County? Not much.

My name is Lorraine Collins. I believe in the First Amendment. I encourage all of us to use it, and to have the courage of our convictions.


Lorraine Collins is a free-lance journalist and lives in Spearfish.

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