The media tends to paint him as a villain, endangering lives by keeping his business open and defying Governor Murphy's orders by staying open in a pandemic. He made the news again this week for refusing to wear a mask on and American Airlines flight from Florida. Ian Smith, co-owner of Atilis Gym in Bellmawr, South Jersey made national news early on in the COVID crisis by defiantly opening his gym, even though he went to great lengths to ensure the safety of his members.

He sanitized his equipment, spaced it apart, did temperature checks and more that most of the other "essential" businesses did to stay open. That didn't matter. His tough guy looks and stance immediately struck the wrong chord for many. Then the stories of his past came to light. He spent time in jail for a drunk driving fatality back when he was in college. He was sentenced to five years in prison, but his past still comes back to haunt him no matter what the current issue is about.

Very few people care about the details, they just know a 19-year-old man died because of him. It's something he owns up to and thinks about to this day, some 14 years later. He's open about it and regrets every moment of that incident, but for many it doesn't matter. He's just a bad guy, period full stop, as Murphy likes to say.

There's a lot more to Ian Smith than that one fateful morning, or his long beard and jacked up physique. Say what you will about any of that, he has the kind of courage and fortitude that few Americans have today. He stood up against a powerful Governor and government and spoke out for liberty and all of our rights. Things that we wouldn't enjoy today as Americans if not for people with the same kind of tenacity and courage to speak against the powers that controlled our liberty 250 years ago.

Yes, I'm comparing him to the founders of our country, because many of those men were flawed as well, but they had the courage to risk everything to speak up for what's right. It is extremely difficult for most people today to separate their emotional reactions from principled ideas. It's reflected in their voting, their choices for political parties and political points of view, and it's led us to a dangerous point. A point where we'll cede our freedoms and our rights for a sense of security. Ben Franklin said, "those who would give up liberty for a bit of security deserve neither." Ian Smith may not be Ben Franklin, but he's a lot more like him than most of us in this country today.

The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Dennis Malloy. Any opinions expressed are Dennis's own.

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