We in Harford County in general, and Bel Air in particular, have reason to feel more than a little bit ashamed after the crass performance by some of our neighbors at the Bel Air Fourth of July Parade.

As usual, the parade featured elected officials sprinkled in with the fire trucks, marching bands and community floats. And one of those elected officials was Gov. Martin O'Malley, who was in the parade with his wife and kids.

As was the case two years ago when O'Malley and his family were in the Bel Air parade, they were the target of obnoxious behavior, namely parade spectators loudly booing an elected official with whom they disagree.

It's a free country, and freedom of speech and expression, as well as freedom to be openly critical of our government are cornerstones of our political system. And the Fourth of July is a celebration of our system of government.


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While there's no reason to do anything to try to prevent this sort of behavior, there's also no reason why we should expect it. The right to boo the elected governor at a civic celebration is absolutely protected, just as is the right to not say "excuse me" after belching, to be rude to waitresses, to make rude gestures while driving, to shout catcalls at women and engage in all sorts of other coarse behavior.

 Certainly, the Fourth of July is a celebration of our way of life, but we'd all do well during such celebrations to remember that the people who appended their names to the document dated July 4, 1776 often disagreed very loudly with each other. What they came up with, however, was a United States of America, with the emphasis on "United."

 Certainly Martin O'Malley was not Harford County's choice for governor, as a substantial majority of voters cast ballots for Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. in the last two elections. But O'Malley does have his supporters in Harford County, and despite the treatment he's received at some of the events he's attended here, in particular the Bel Air parade, he's spent plenty of time in the county and been attentive to its needs and has not been at all vindictive toward the treatment he's received by some of our ill-mannered residents.

More importantly, however, once elected to office, O'Malley represents the whole state, not just his political party, and to boo at a civic function like a parade not only shows disrespect for the man, his family and his legitimate political party (be it the party of the loyal opposition in Harford County or not), but it also shows disrespect for the office and our state.

So, boo if you feel you must when someone you voted against is in a parade. It is, after all, your right. But remember it is the kind of behavior that, in addition to being downright rude, tends to weaken what our country stands for. After all, if we can't be united in celebrating the Fourth of July, when can we?