A sad thing happened here the other day.

Our neighbors put up a sign in front of their house; someone took it. They put up another one; someone took that one, too.

Of course, it could have been childish pranks, or, someone who wanted to put the sign up at their own house. But for the sake of this letter, I'm assuming that someone didn't like the sentiment expressed by the signs, so they stole them.

The people who put up the sign are good, responsible, kind people. They have spent their lives in service to this community. However, the thieves decided that these good people do not have the right to express their opinions even on their own property.

Now I bet the thieves think that they are good American patriots, but they are not. They have denied the good neighbors’ right to freedom of expression, to free speech, even to the right to feel safe on their own property. That is what fascists and terrorists do. It is not what true American patriots do.

We have just passed the remembrance of Sept. 11. On that day terrorists tried to poison our lives with fear. I think they failed. But now, 19 years later, fear and hatred and intolerance rule us. All on our own, we have achieved what the terrorists failed to do.

Once citizens start taking away the rights of others and believing they are justified in doing so, then America is lost.

I was taught to be proud of the American value “I disagree with what you say, but I would defend to the death your right to say it.” This was a central tenet of American patriotism. Where is that sentiment now?

Our unity gives us our strength — unity of family, of community, of citizenship in our country and even as members of the world community.

E pluribus unum.

Jim Cross lives in Barre.

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