When I was a kid we had a common expression, a standard retort employed by us schoolyard smart-mouth types against anybody who said something we didn’t particularly appreciate. With adequate snarl to make sure the other kid knew we weren’t laughing: “That’s easy for you to say!” I suppose we were too young to swear.

Those words didn’t signify a lot; we were 6, or 7, and we meant, “You chump, you don’t know what you’re talking about. How ’bout you just shut up and stop bothering the potted plants? You’re an idiot.”

You know, your mother wears Army boots.

That expression, with the associated pique understood only among us kids, has come to mind these past few months. There are rural Americans who suggest that some enormous problems aren’t really there. You’ve heard about all this rough stuff they have on the evening news, out there in the United States of Somewhere Else, that we don’t have around here? Living in the boondocks we sometimes get off easy, but there is an ugly side. People can say things they shouldn’t — some even issue death threats to fellow citizens — without accountability, and claim such wrath is just innocent “free speech.” Americans who live in 99% White Anglo areas can truly believe that other people’s pain is wildly exaggerated just because they’ve never happened to see the struggle up close. No real racism in the United States? Hmph; that’s easy for you to say.

We have been exposed to some revolting demonstrations of White supremacy in this country. Around here, it’s true — nobody is tearing into the halls of power in costumes that belong at Comic-Con, but there is some seriously ignorant paranoia among people who have little to fear.

I know some readers would rather I stick to the comforts of home and the ridiculousness of the bureaucracy. Today, we will not discuss the complications of low-tide sheetrock delivery, or conjure the audible silence of a rare winter evening when the wind doesn’t blow. I’m not going to tell stories this week about the Adopt-a-Byway Roadside Litter Patrol and Drinking Society, or opine on the price of lobster bait.

I am going on the record to state that we who see little of the resistance in this country need to manage a reality check. “I don’t have that problem today myself” does not mean “that problem is not real.” To suggest that others do not suffer is immoral. It is indefensible. It’s just plain mean.

Sometimes we are so protected by our rural isolation that we can shamelessly posture, and strut, and run our mouths without ever being confronted. That doesn’t make us right.

Remember the guys who stood around on the wharf after 9-11 and pontificated across the hood of the truck about how “We oughtta bomb the Ay-rabs back to the Stone Age?” Not one of them had likely ever met an “Ay-rab” (sorry, friends) and they probably didn’t know the Paleolithic from the Paleo Diet. Nowadays, the same fellows figure that it probably isn’t safe to go shopping at Tractor Supply without packing heat.

Comforting talk of national unity, and how we need to “agree to disagree” or to “disagree with civility” is fine, and makes a great deal of sense when we are talking about whether or not to make Main Street one-lane in the summertime, or debating whether cell phone towers ought to be disguised as Giant Sequoias. But when the conversation is about White supremacy, or any form of threat to others on account of something basic to their being, one opinion is not morally equal to another. If your opinion is that you have more right to the benefits and privileges of this country than other Americans do, your opinion is simply incorrect and you need to shut your damned mouth.

You don’t get to stomp around in an all-White upcountry or offshore crowd tossing insults around just because you can get away with it. Well, I suppose you do, and “that’s easy for you to say,” if nobody calls you out and suggests you knock it the hell off. A racist, sexist, anti-Semitic or xenophobic attitude ceases to be just your opinion once it escapes the privacy of your darkest broom closet. I, as one citizen, do not wish to hear any more malarkey about “free speech” if what you really mean is criminal threatening. Long ago, civilization somehow understood and acknowledged that “Free speech doesn’t include shouting ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theater,” to paraphrase Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes.

As we work to bring the country together and endeavor to “disagree with civility,” we also may need to tell a few obnoxious White guys to stick their evil words where the sun don’t shine. Call somebody out who needs it. Courage, then, and onward.