Rochelle Riley is a columnist for the Detroit Free Press. Her writing style is an easy read and her thoughts usually get my brains cells to come to life. But last week, Ms. Riley and I disagreed. I suppose that if I were more resolute in my political opinions, we would disagree more often. I like being flexible politically-speaking and admittedly, can often be encouraged to learn a multitude of ways - issue by issue, but this time, I'm not leaning Rochelle's way.
Like many of us, Ms. Riley was incensed at Joe Wilson's shout-out during President Obama's speech last week. She denounces his timing, his word choice, and his ethics, and she now believes Mr. Wilson owes the American people an apology.
I agree until that last point. Mr. Wilson broke with tradition. He showed rude behavior. He spoke from anger. For all those things, he has apologized to the only person deserving of an apology, President Obama.
Does Mr. Wilson have a right to be angry? I suspect so when I hear that there is currently no provision in the bill for a person to prove citizenship in order to receive health care. That matters to me, too. Will this specific bill, if passed into law, cost me dear tax dollars? Will this bill lessen the caliber of health care I receive now? I sincerely believe the answer to both is yes.
Are there other avenues for Mr. Wilson to express his anger? Of course. But
does Mr. Wilson owe ME an apology for disrespecting tradition and Mr. Obama? He does not. Have the politicians who have booed or hissed previous presidents, thereby interrupting their speeches, apologized to anyone? Have you read about apologies to those presidents? I certainly never received an apology either. Nor have I received apologies from politicians who interrupt presidential addresses with politically-charged ovations or those who openly disrespect a president by not clapping before, during, or after those speeches. And I'm still waiting to hear an apology from the pols who sneer whenever a president is being lauded.
Ms. Riley believes that Mr. Wilson has ruined his political future, but I continue to hear people who feel Mr. Wilson spoke for them that night. As one caller said during a radio show, "It just felt so good!" Perhaps there are many other South Carolinians who feel that way, too.
Mr. Wilson was doing what he was elected to do. He was voicing an opinion and speaking for his electorate. I like free speech. I like it even better when it is done with care and in appropriate settings. And I like it best of all when someone knows that they don't have to shout because they will be truly heard if they speak quietly and appropriately.
You know what, Rochelle Riley? We may not agree on this one, but you're still my favorite columnist.