It’s a scenario that makes reasonable people shake their heads with disgust.
Last Tuesday, a month after three people attending a town meeting in the Poconos died in a barrage of gunfire, police 40 miles to the northwest arrested a Freeland man and charged him with terroristic threats. Authorities allege he threatened to kill borough police officers and officials and set fire to the town over a code enforcement matter.
It also was a code issue in Ross Township, Monroe County, that allegedly angered the suspect there.
While the Freeland man was being arraigned Tuesday evening, Ross Township officials convened publicly for the first time since the August shooting, behind a metal detector and under the protection of sheriff deputies at the 911 center. Freeland officials understandably postponed their scheduled public meeting in light of the alleged threat.
Events in both towns forced security issues to delay our representative form of local government. The heart of democracy is for citizens to face local officials and air their grievances, and that had to be shelved because of safety concerns.
A lasting effect might very well be be that people with legitimate public concerns may be dissuaded from standing up and being heard.
A town hall is where issues are debated — with spirit, if warranted — and eventually decided after sufficient discussion and deliberation. After all, having differences of opinion openly aired is key to what makes our representative form of government work.
Some town officials already have been wary and security conscious, and more are likely to add protection. Armed guards and police at a public forum can be expensive and intimidating to some citizens, but really, who could fault local leaders now?
Sadly, as we approach the twelfth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, we have become numb to the lifestyle changes that the threat of violence has brought.
Being frisked and searched like a criminal suspect is an accepted part of airport life now. Security cameras installed to protect people in public places infringe upon our sense of privacy. Many government buildings that had been accessed easily not that many years ago are fortress-like.
And now more of us can expect to have armed officers present when airing our grievances at public forums. That certainly does not send positive signals about the society into which we are evolving.
It might sound simplistic, but we have to work individually and collectively to curtail the violence that threatens our precious rights. After all, freedom lost is difficult to regain.