Americans are particularly fortunate. We have been born into a country with rich traditions of independence, based on an premise of individual liberty above governmental rule. A nation based on the values of freedom, opportunity and respect for the rule of law - where all are judged fairly.

There have been many times throughout our history when we have not lived up to those ideals. Many times our nation has stumbled and fallen short. As a nation, we have had to atone for many sins, but we strive to be better every day. We have learned from history. Not just our own, but those of the great empires… like Egypt, Greece, Rome. We’ve studied their discoveries, successes and downfalls.

In our own history we have had turning points, moments when the direction our nation would take was uncertain. The American Revolution, The Civil War and the civil rights movement all come to mind, as do our entry into two world wars. Times of upheaval and uncertainty.

We have faced presidential assassinations, economic collapse and division. We have elected presidents who have led us to great successes, wartime victories and through the darkest days.  We have also elected presidents whose decisions lead to economic uncertainty, racial inequality and losses of freedom.

As a nation, we have always come together to uphold the American ideal, embracing the ideas that hold our society together and have propelled Western Civilization through the ages, bringing peace and prosperity to the world. Those ideals defeated evil on more than one occasion.

Our political battles have been blood sport since before there even was an America. Protesting against the government is a time-honored tradition that is so important it was enshrined before all others in our Bill of Rights. Civil disobedience, from the Boston Tea Party and the Underground Railroad to Freedom Rides are our inheritance.

What has transpired over the last month, however, has gone beyond protest and devolved into mobs that are more reminiscent of the French Revolution. The professional left, who learned to never let a crisis go to waste, deployed activists to capitalize - cornering duly elected Senators in elevators and at their homes, subjected to screaming mobs. Capitol Police have had to escort Senators back to their home states after their votes to confirm now Justice Kavanaugh. Senator Cory Gardner’s wife received a gruesome video of a man being beheaded on her personal cell phone, and his family member’s names and home addresses were leaked to the public. Senator Rand Paul’s wife now reportedly sleeps with a loaded gun beside her bed, and that was before Senator Paul’s yes vote.

Senator Collins, whose floor speech was not just a great speech in defense of a man and his body of work, but of due process and the necessity of honoring our institutions and ideals. Her words were measured and thoughtful and a strong testament to America. It should have been applauded by legal scholars and historians. Instead she and her staff received violent threats. This doesn’t even cover the images of Senator Collins trying to get to the floor of the Senate to give her speech as grown men screamed at her while crowding her police escort and stopping her elevator.

So much for standing up for all women.

As an aside… kudos to the security details and police who have had more than their fair share of insanity in and around the Capitol for the last two weeks.

Collins’s words will go down in history as one of the best speeches given from the floor of the Senate in the modern era, and they galvanized the right at a time when contentment had started breeding complacency.

There is no question that the left is motivated to vote this November. In fact, many on the left haven’t been able to move on since Nov. 8, 2016, and we have witnessed what is essentially a two-year long tantrum brought to our streets by an alliance of professional grievance groups and socialist anarchists. Think Occupy Wall Street, unleashed all across America, playing out in most major metropolitan cities.

We are at a place in history when the left, holding no levers of power within the government, has lashed out in the one place where they hold all the cards, our culture. It’s a full court press of movies, books, music, television, media - add to that academia and our elite class - telling everyday Americans that not only are they wrong, but offering up comparisons to Nazis. This alone was not enough to motivate a Republican base that has been called names for decades.

One could venture that most everyday Americans are not into a recasting of the Salem Witch Trials brought to the present day, nor react positively to shots of activists attempting to beat down the door of the Supreme Court or Senator Mazie Hirono on the Sunday shows declining to denounce - if not almost seeming to condone, in my opinion - violent mob action that has only increased in tone and tenor as Election Day nears.

We are at a crossroads as a nation.

It’s not just about tribal loyalties or what the highest effective tax rate should be.

We are reaching one of those historical forks in the road.

Which direction will we choose?

Mob rule, or the rule of law?

Staff columnist Toni Butero can be reached at tbutero@mattosnews.com or by calling (209) 862-2222.