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Friday, July 27, 2012

Freedom of Speech or Ignorant Insult?

Middle finger

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The middle fingerlong finger, or tall finger is the third digit 
of the human hand, located between the index finger and the 
ring fingerIt is usually the longest finger. It is also called the third 
fingerdigitus mediusdigitus tertius, or digitus III in anatomy.  
In Western countries, extending the middle finger (either on its 
own or along with the index finger in the United Kingdomis an 
offensive and obscene gesture, colloquially known as "flipping 
the bird",[1]   "flipping someone off", or simply  "giving the finger". 
The gesture is usually used as as a form of insult to the person it is directed to.  
Extending the finger is considereduniversal symbol of contempt.

     While driving my fourteen year old daughter to her summer job as a volunteer camp counselor, 
we were greeted with the "mother of all hand gestures" by a pedestrian familiar to us.  I use the 
word "familiar" because as a high school teenager this person worked at a local gas station 
where I routinely fill my vehicle's tank and have it serviced for repairs.  The young man, now
believed to be in his twenties, would always greet me at the station and engage me in 
conversation about my truck, Westfield, and law enforcement.  
     Suddenly, one day he became silent.  No longer was he cordial as he was in the past and I 
wondered why.  As he filled up my vehicle that day almost two years ago, I repeatedly asked him 
"what's the problem, something wrong," he turned to me and in a very stern and angry tone stated
"I don't like how you treat the Mayor at council meetings."  I had learned from his boss at the 
gas station that he had probably been watching Westfield TV36 and developed his animosity 
from what he had seen on television.  I'm sure that some of the contents of this website would 
also strike a nerve in this person.
     Shortly thereafter, he quit his job.  For whatever reason he moved on but his anger within did
not.  I say that because since then, each and every time this person sees my vehicle driving down
the road, as he is walking the sidewalk in our neighborhood, he delivers his ignorant salute that 
might cause some to engage in a confrontation, not me, until yesterday.  
     If it were not for my fourteen year old daughter riding in the front seat with full view of this young
man "flipping the bird" at us, I would have continued on my way as I have done the countless times he 
has displayed his contempt and ignorance.  But this time was different.  This time I pulled over to 
the side of the road and shouted out to him that if he had something to say, say it.  I told him that 
what he did was inappropriate given my daughter was in the vehicle.  For a minute I felt like our 
governor on boardwalk responding to a heckler as seen in a now infamous YouTube video. 
     As  he passed by us, his non-verbal gesture, a "high handed single finger salute," remained in
the air as he appeared to of ignored my verbal response, but turned to look at me and emphasize 
his expression by pumping his fist with it's middle finger standing at attention. 
     Nonetheless, my daughter and I continued on our way.  It was an opportunity for me to use the
incident as a learning experience for her.  I told her that believe it or not the young man had
expressed himself in a manner that is protected by our nation's Constitution.  Forget the fact that 
the hand gesture is offensive and obscene, this young man's use of it is a protected right just as 
any appearance at the microphone at a town council meeting is......its called freedom of speech.
Like its verbal counterpart, when it is used to express contempt, anger, or protest, it is a form of 
expression protected by the First Amendment.  
     What is ironic and in some ways disturbing, the young man is the the son of a U.S. Navy 
veteran.  No doubt, a man that served our nation honorably; a man that fought to protect the same
rights we all enjoy, including his own son.  
     Yesterday, the right of freedom of speech took on a whole new meaning for my daughter,
a fourteen year old that understands the difference between anger, criticism, and ignorance.


  1. I, for one, would like to give you two thumbs up to cancel out that person's middle finger gesture and give you a +1 in the positive direction. You provide a very much needed and refreshing perspective on local politics/issues that our town very much needs. This is a very valuable service to our community, on top of the value you provided as a member of the Westfield Police Department for so many years.

  2. You did good T.H., you did good.

  3. Nothing like yelling at Autistic people!

    1. Life is like a box of chocolates, ain't that right Lieutenant Dan?

  4. I f it were me with my kid an he did that I would have broken the kids finger clear off his hand.