Patsy Neal: You do have rights, but so do I. Please respect them.

As a nation we are expected to look out for the common good.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Angry residents react when a Utah County Commission meeting on July 15 is adjourned before it even started. The group protesting against face masks being required in schools filled the meeting room, prompting Commissioner Tanner Ainge to say it was an unsafe gathering.

Like most Americans, I am thankful for the many freedoms and rights I have as a citizen. However, I am appalled at the behavior of so many Americans who justify their behavior under the banner of “It is my right as an American.”

Belligerent words, aggressive attitudes and lack of concern for the welfare of others creates a violent environment and can put all of us in danger.

The behavior above could inadvertently kill me, you, your child, or others around you.

Extremely appalling are the threats and aggressive behavior toward individuals and organizations trying to protect the health of all our citizens, whether it involves mask wearing or vaccine mandates.

School board members in Virginia received threats ranging from public hanging to broken legs, and being fed to pigs, along with threats against their family members.

In North Carolina, a glass door was smashed by parents during a school board meeting about mask mandates. In Utah, 11 protesters were charged with disorderly conduct during a chaotic school board meeting about mask mandates.

Threats have also greatly increased against members of Congress. Recently, Republican Rep. Paul Gosar put an outrageous altered anime video on Twitter showing him killing a Democratic member of Congress and attacking President Joe Biden with swords.

What has happened to us? Are we so uncivilized that we must terrorize individuals who are doing jobs they are sworn to do?

This is not the country I grew up in, where civility was commonplace — not an aberration. Of course, there were disagreements and opposing opinions, but parents did not yell at teachers and administrators, nor were threats made against election officials, politicians and leaders. There was a sense of being in it together — and getting through the rough patches through dialogue and challenging work. I really miss this sense of togetherness, and I crave moments of politeness and rational conversations. Even more, I miss moral leadership at the highest levels.

I believe that, amid all our freedoms and rights, we have become a nation of individuals who have no concept of “common good.” We have roads, police and fire protection, public parks and schools, and health organizations because they are here for the common good, and benefit all of us.

However, promoting the common good is not always pleasant. Because we share this world and this country with others, there are times when individuals must sacrifice for the good of the whole group. Our forefathers referred to common good in the Preamble to the Constitution when they wrote about promoting the “general welfare.”

The first thing I learned as an athlete in a team sport was that the team was more important than the individual. If you did not have a good shot, you looked for a teammate who did. You didn’t show off your dribbling skills when someone was free for a pass. And you certainly didn’t make it hard on other members of the team by threatening them or refusing to abide by the rules that were established for the good of everybody. You were responsible for each other. That was why it was a team. It was through individual sacrifice that the group could succeed. The role sacrifice plays in common good is fully understood by those who have gone to war to protect our country.

Contributing to the common good can make us uncomfortable because it requires unselfishness. If we only care about are our rights, our bodies, and our freedom, the whole will suffer, and our country will lose much of what made it great. After all, the Preamble of the Constitution starts out with the phrase “We the People of the United States.” It is not “I the People.”

President George Bush, in his 2001 Inaugural Address, said: “I ask you to seek a common good beyond your comfort … I ask you to be citizens … responsible citizens, building communities of service and a nation of character.”

If only we could forget ourselves and our individual rights long enough to do so.

Patsy Neal

Patsy Neal, Matthews, North Carolina, has eight books published, won four Freedom Foundation Awards, and is working on a book, “Ourselves, Our Country, Our Freedom.” She holds a master’s degree from the University of Utah, where she also taught health and physical education.