Somebody doesn’t like it.

That’s how it starts. Somebody doesn’t like it – where “it” is an act or an opinion. In what is arguably still a free society, we as citizens are supposed to be free to say a variety of things others won’t like. If you have freedom of speech, I don’t have a corresponding right not to be offended. In a society built on those ideals, citizens, when confronted with something they dislike, something that upsets them, or simply that with which they disagree, are presumed to have the emotional and mental fortitude to cope with this conflict.

Except many don’t. Instead, what so many within our society do is lash out with anger, with insult, with hate and with violence.

Most recently, this happened to Anthony Bologna, a New York City police officer who pepper-sprayed some protesters during the interminable “Occupy Wall Street” demonstrations in New York City. I’m not convinced the much-circulated video shows what we’re told it shows, but that’s immaterial. Bologna is now hated by the left – and they know who he is. A close-up photo of his badge was used to identify him, but you’re kidding yourself if you think you can’t be found, identified and your personal information exposed through a variety of means. The Internet’s integral presence in our lives guarantees this.

The result? Anthony Bologna did something someone didn’t like, and now he and his family are in danger from cowards who may attempt to hurt them from some twisted sense of social justice. The same group responsible for exposing Bologna’s personal information says it wants to “erase” the New York Stock Exchange from the Internet. The motivations are the same; the scope of the target is all that differs.

I’ve seen this before. A few years ago, a local conservative activist (whom I first encountered in the midst of a protest during an appearance by Vice President Cheney) started to make quite a name for himself in Central New York. He eventually and effectively silenced his critics by joining the Army and serving in Iraq. Follow-up features in the paper, upon his return, revealed that the combination of his military service and his political activism had exacted a toll on his marriage, at least temporarily. He also sounded disillusioned, politically, after serving in the military.

What seemed to touch all this off was when people started driving by the man’s home and shouting vile insults and threats at his wife. He mentioned, in one interview, that he had been forced to install a security system in his home because of these threats. The implication was clear: When he was not present to defend his family or stand up for himself, good little liberals would exact revenge on this man’s loved ones because he expressed, publicly, a political opinion they didn’t like.

These libs are cowards.

Cowardice is refusing to confront a man directly because you dislike something he has said or done. Cowardice is instead threatening or attacking his family, his livelihood, or his freedom to express his views and conduct his life … even when he’s wrong.

Cowards exist on both sides of the political aisle. While acts of cowardice, the threats of weaklings and the outrage of the mentally and emotionally incapable can be had on both the left and the right, acts of cowardice and of violent cowardice are far more common among the libs than among conservatives. Recent acts of union thuggery illustrate this only too well.

There is no denying, however, that when a conservative elects to use violence, he does so to spectacular and horrific effect. Need just one or two examples? The man who shot abortion doctor Bernard Slepian was no liberal, and to secular liberals and atheists, there is no difference between your church and the raving lunatics from the Westboro Baptist cult.

Stop and ask yourself how many enemies you’ve made today. Oh, you have; you just don’t realize it. Have you ever argued politics on Facebook? Have you ever commented on a contentious issue or opinion on any social media site? Maybe tweeted something another person found offensive?

What about at work? Ever expressed a water-cooler opinion, only to find a coworker is an ardent liberal who’s now not quite as friendly to you? That goes both, ways, too: Have you ever decided you didn’t like someone after you learned of his or her political and ideological beliefs?

We all make and collect personal enemies, If it’s not our opinions that offend, it’s how we live our lives. Maybe you’re a hunter and that angers some animal rights activist. Maybe you drive an SUV and the lib in the hybrid behind you thinks you’re evil. Maybe you made the mistake of putting a FUBO bumper sticker on your car, and now the hippie with the Hope and Change stickers on his car wants to cut you off.

My honestly held, earnestly expressed opinions have earned me many enemies. They include people who have challenged me to fight them (who then reneged). One critic is a liberal blogger with a Tripod website who regularly lies about my opinions. Another, described by an acquaintance as a “broken toy,” is a loner living three states away who roams the Internet complaining that I’m mean. Still another is a family man whose home is a couple of hours from mine. He’s told everyone but me on Facebook how much he wants to beat me up.

What these people all have in common is that they are cowards. The examples I’ve cited are my cowards. They are the enemies I have created, willfully and knowingly, by daring to say, publish and do the things I’ve said, written and done.

In an era whose citizens are interconnected through countless technological devices and networks, what you may not realize is that you have just as many enemies as do I. You make them every day. You have them even if you think otherwise.

It starts when you say something they don’t like.

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