The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees four freedoms: freedom of religion, speech, press and assembly.

We speak our minds without fear of being arrested. Any of us can state that an elected official is a jerk and proclaim he is making huge errors in judgment and policy. On the other hand, we can say our leader is brilliant. Unfortunately, complaints often overshadow positive observations.

As this year's presidential election nears I've been receiving hateful email with regard to the candidates. Some of them are especially mean-spirited. Most of them don't offer constructive criticism but are crude, spiteful and malicious.

Countless television commercials lambaste the candidates, disregarding facts in their character assassinations. This brutish behavior breaks my heart. Have we discarded the soul of America?

When I was a young idealist, I wrote letters to senators, congressmen and the president complaining about governmental decisions or policy. Each of these communications was eventually answered by someone, usually not to my satisfaction. It was my choice whether or not to pursue my conviction.

Although I greatly disliked some of our presidents, I did not feel vengeance toward them. I did not hate them.

Laws have been enacted that we may not agree with. Some of our freedoms have been removed as a result of terrorists and citizens taking violent action, or committing major crimes. But comparing the opportunities afforded Americans with many other governments, we still come out ahead.

Over the years our legislators passed laws enabling the rich to get richer. Tax loopholes abound. Entitlements are out of control. But it does not make sense to blame one party or the other. They have all taken part in this upheaval.

And let's look to corporations for their share. Why have salaries among executives soared to millions of dollars a year while lower-echelon employees are laid off? Why have legislators voted themselves pensions and health benefits for life? Can we blame one president or another for these travesties of inequality?

Living in this country is a gift as we are sheltered under the canopy of a democracy. We are free to travel, free to open a business, allowed to make investments as we choose, and have multitudes of choices available to us not possible throughout the world. Not all countries provide children with 12 years of free education.

We are in a different world from the one our parents and grandparents lived in. Now we are in a "don't stop before you think" electronics age. It is not good enough to comment that we think someone made an incorrect choice or should have taken a different route. We belittle people we don't agree with, we demean their actions and we hit below the belt.

Our legislators and our citizens behave like junior high school brats who take up hate campaigns against students they think are stupid or fat or with whom they simply don't agree. We wonder why our children bully and act violent. What examples are adults putting forth?

If we are unhappy with the president, our representative or senator, we have the right to campaign for the candidate of our choice or donate to our favorite contender's campaign. We can volunteer to make phone calls to get out the vote. Through our social networks on the Internet, we can voice our opinion in a positive manner, telling our contacts what we like about our nominee. We do not have to verbally knock the opposition senseless.

We are free to contact people who agree with our grievances to work for change. Petitions can be started. Letters and emails can be sent to lawmakers. Instead of harboring hate, take positive action. Don't waste good energy by complaining, moaning and groaning. Do something constructive. Don't spread rumors without verifying they are true.

If love is decreed as the core of our lives and our living, as many proclaim weekly in churches, mosques and synagogues, act in a loving way. Your behavior will be mimicked by those with whom you come in contact.

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