Daily Herald opinion: Persistent threats based on political beliefs disrupt the tolerance that makes democracy work

This editorial is a consensus opinion of the Daily Herald Editorial Board.

Extreme and dangerous behavior is nothing new, and it's certainly not subsiding. In just the last few weeks, we've noticed an increase in outrageous threats by people who think nothing of the fear and harm they're causing by putting their own viewpoints ahead of the community's welfare.

Let's review the most recent events that are cause for concern.

On Aug. 3, a Winfield man was charged with threatening a public official over her stance on how the Wheaton Warrenville Unit District 200 school board should handle controversial books.

On Aug. 21, a Plainfield woman was charged with sending emails threatening to shoot former President Trump and his 17-year-old son, Barron, "straight in the face at any opportunity that I get."

Most recently, there was a rash of bomb threats targeting suburban libraries. Park Ridge, Gurnee, Wilmette, Morton Grove and Oak Park libraries were harassed, forcing some buildings to temporarily close.

All three cases share a common denominator - opposing political ideologies. There is nothing wrong with these differing viewpoints, but there is something very wrong with this unnerving behavior.

Where is the self-control?

Where is the civility?

Where are the calm and constructive conversations we should be having with friends and neighbors in an attempt to understand opposing viewpoints, agreeing to disagree and showing respect to our fellow humans?

A beauty of democracy is that it doesn't require everyone to think alike. But it does require that everyone tolerate the views of others who do not think like they do. Threatening others because we don't agree with them is conduct we should all reject in our social circles, communities, schools, families and workplaces.

We encourage people to lower the temperature and reassess their emotional barometers, regardless of their political points of view, and emphasize understanding and tolerance.

This was Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias' message when he issued a news release last week, condemning the recent threats toward libraries.

"The bomb threats received by Illinois libraries during the past several days represent a troublesome and disturbing trend that has escalated from banning books, to harassing and criminalizing librarians and now to endangering the lives of innocent people," he said. "We must join together to stand up to fringe elements that resort to threats of violence and seek to destroy the fundamental freedoms that our nation was founded upon."

We're saddened that such a statement needs to be made, and it's a disturbing situation for a community when a library, of all places, has to close its doors to keep patrons safe.

Libraries are where we come together to learn, relax, study and work. We should feel safe in a library, regardless of what book we choose to read.

When people don't approve of a book on a shelf, or a book removed from a shelf, or a political leader's views, we need reasonable behavior and constructive conversations where they listen more than they talk, where empathy and understanding outweigh hatred and intolerance.

Then, we hope, cooler heads will prevail.

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