We have seen the trend here on the Mid-Shore of Donald Trump and Joe Biden campaign signs being vandalized, damaged or stolen as we approach Election Day.

Signs are being spray painted, ripped up and taken from front yards and their roadside placements throughout the Mid-Shore and Delmarva Peninsula. It’s happening in Easton, St. Michaels, Dorchester County and other communities.

The Talbot County Sheriff’s Office, Easton Police Department and other law enforcement agencies are receiving calls from residents about Trump, Biden and other signs being stolen and defaced. Their resources are better served responding to serious crimes and helping victims of domestic violence, child abuse and other crimes.

First and foremost, we should respect others’ views and the exercising of their First Amendment rights even if we disagree with those opinions. Freedom of speech, religion and expression are what sets America apart from other countries. It helps us all keep tabs on our elected leaders and our institutions — whether schools, local governments or presidential campaigns. Free speech helps consumers, workers and voters make informed decisions about their lives.

But we are concerned about attacks on our civil liberties, namely freedom of speech and expression. This is happening both in our Mid-Shore front yards but also on our iPhones and laptops.

Political and civil discourse have devolved so much that we cannot just simply disagree with someone — or simply ignore them. Too many times there are personal insults and calls for voices to be censored.

This includes the stealing and destruction of campaign signs here on the Mid-Shore as well as attempts to gag dissenting views on social media.

Too often, individuals are chastising and insulting others with different views on Facebook and Twitter.

While that speech is protected, we should all remember that we don’t know what others are dealing with right now with the virus and all its economic and social ramifications. The pandemic is already creating a mental health crisis locally and nationally. A kind word can lift someone’s day from its depths. Bullying and pejoratives can put someone already facing mental health and addiction challenges on a downward path.

The social media vitriol tears at the fabric of our Mid-Shore communities.

There are also major concerns about how social media giants — Facebook, Twitter and Google — are censoring certain voices — including advocates here on the Shore.

Conservatives are right to voice frustrations and concerns over social media platforms taking down pages and censoring their views. This has extended to “everyday” residents expressing their beliefs and to President Donald Trump and his controversial tweets and posts. Those who disagree with Trump and his cohorts should vehemently voice their disagreements. But neither side should be censored.

We know Twitter, Facebook (which owns Instagram) and Google (which owns YouTube), control their social media platforms and have the ability to restrict or ban those who violate “community standards.” But it is unsettling to see the targeting of some voices and some perspectives — mostly from the right — but not others. Social media platforms are essential now to our discourse and democracy. They should embrace that as much as their profits and political correctness.

Free speech can be noisy, messy and uncomfortable. Disagreements and differences can get heated. But we should not be censoring others and we should not be stealing or vandalizing campaign signs from the roadside or someone’s front yard.

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