When Patrick Henry said "Give me liberty or give me death," it was more than a rhetorical flourish.
He was urging his fellow Virginians to form a militia and confront British rule, an act that would literally result in liberty or death for the leaders of the American revolution.
In comparison, it is worth considering how detached some of our governor's political rhetoric has become from reality.
In the Hall of Flags last week, Gov. Paul LePage was complaining about losing his First Amendment right to free speech.
Two weeks ago, the governor was not allowed time to speak at an emergency work session of the Legislature's Appropriations Committee.
This was, in hindsight, an opportunity missed for the Democrats. If they had allowed LePage to speak, he would have been obligated to answer questions.
And, as we have seen, this is a governor who does not suffer questions gladly. When contradicted in public or asked difficult questions, the governor often explodes, walks out of rooms and slams doors. Polite persuasion is not part of his political tool box.
The governor told reporters last week that it is a "dangerous precedent when we can't let Americans speak."
He added, "The minute we start stifling our speech, we might as well go home, roll up our sleeves and get our guns out."
Get our guns! Where did that come from?
When you think about this realistically, the governor has more free speech at his disposal than anyone in Maine.
If he calls a press conference, which he rarely does, he would have newspaper reporters and TV cameras available on command.
He gets to address, uninterrupted and without question, the entire Legislature and the state's citizenry once a year during the State of the State address.
He has two full-time press people to help get his opinion out and re-state things for him when he misspeaks.
He even has his own radio show each weekend to carry his thoughts to all corners of the state, and he speaks constantly to groups large and small all around Maine.
Still feeling he was denied an opportunity to speak, the governor set up a TV set in a hallway outside his office, a TV programmed to promote his favorite idea, repaying hospitals money they are owed.
But there is a long-standing State House rule that has been observed by generations of governors and legislators — political signs should not clutter the halls without permission of the Legislative Council.
Either the governor was unaware of the rule, or decided to ignore it. When forced to remove the TV he had another hissy fit about being "censored," even though he never even sought permission.
This all makes good theater, but people should be smart enough to see through this sort of hyperbole from politicians.
All of our constitutional rights are have limits and constraints. The right to free speech doesn't give the governor the right to be heard at a presidential inauguration or to speak at the Super Bowl.
The Second Amendment is similarly tempered by rules, like the one forbidding civilians from carrying a weapon on a military base, or those forbidding us from carrying them into workplaces or schools.
These issues are important and our arguments may be passionate, but it is ludicrous to raise every disagreement to a Patrick Henry moment.
The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and the editorial board.