The temperature of public dialog in Waldo County has spiked recently, along with the summer heat and humidity.

First there was the sign in support of the far-right conspiracy theory group QAnon posted beside the Belfast bridge. Then we received email with the subject line "Confederate heritage is alive and well in Monroe." Attached to the message was a photo of a Confederate battle flag flying at the side of a country road along with a picture of the owner's mailbox, apparently sent in the hope that we would "out" the flag flyer.

Next we learned about a controversy in Stockton Springs over Thin Blue Line and Thin Red Line flags displayed on public property along Hersey Retreat Road and in front of the Town Office. The flags, first conceived to honor law enforcement and firefighters, respectively, have been adopted by white supremacist groups, which caused some living on the road to object to their being flown on town property.

Several people filed formal complaints with the town, which the Board of Selectmen decided warranted no action. One of complainants told The Republican Journal that additional residents planned to file complaints, and they were consulting their state senator, Democrat Erin Herbig, about what other recourse might be open to them. For more on this story, see page 1.

To town officials' credit, we learned as we were going to press that the blue and red line flags flying in front of the Town Office were taken down in response to complaints from a number of citizens.

Finally, there was the defacing of a Black Lives Matter sign in Waldo with a swastika; our story is on page 1. This seemed to be the culmination of a week or so of mounting intolerance, impelling us to comment in this space.

What is the matter with us? Can we not hold two ideas in tension without erupting in conflict? Can we not believe both that most police officers are brave, dedicated people who want to serve the public good and that Blacks in this country are far too often victims of excessive police use of force? Can we not honor those who serve and also honor those who speak up for racial justice and equality? Can we not abhor symbols of racism like the Confederate battle flag and still uphold our neighbors' right to fly it on their own private property?

We are not asking for everyone to sit around a campfire and sing "Kumbaya." We are urging our fellow citizens to give a damn about the people they share a state, a town, a neighborhood with, regardless of whether they agree with their neighbors or not. We are asking them to show some maturity, instead of looking to put others down or silence them. What is now decried as "political correctness" used to go under the old-fashioned names of politeness, consideration and humility.

We believe it matters less whether you are right than whether you are kind. And in a democratic country like ours, defending the rights of others is the best way to protect your own. Of course there is a point where a tolerant society must refuse to tolerate intolerance, or it would cease to exist. We hope our county, state and nation have not passed that point.