One of the scourges of small village life is this unwritten rule - "Thou shalt never publicly stand for anything." The most venomous things I've ever had written about me or said to me are because I have violated this commandment. One local businessmen recently said to me that he felt he couldn't speak about politics or religion to anyone because he might offend someone and it could cost him business. My thought is that if someone is that petty, I can live without their trade or in my case without their donation in the offering plate.
At the root of the problem is that many people have positions that are not well thought or based in fact. For example; "I'm a democrat because they stand for the little guy". In reality, dem members of congress are far more wealthy, on average than Republican members. Further, the income demographics for party members shows that democrats are most likely to have incomes under 20k or over 100k while a Republicans are typically solidly middle class. But because no one talks about this, people are allow to wallow in their illusion. Another example would be that our soldiers are recruited from the poor. Would that more poor people availed themselves of the opportunities military service offers! The vast majority of our service personnel come from middle class, two parent households. In most cases one or both parents have college degrees. In many cases both father and grandfathers have served in the military. In other words, we have a military class in the U.S. It is this military class that is fighting our current conflicts, not poor people. But again, in polite society we are not allow to speak of this lest we disturb someone's comfortable falsehood.
In reality, only those who stand for something, publicly will ever accomplish anything of lasting significance. It is only because men like John Adams took the risk of publicly advocating for American independence, that we are free today. It is only because Abraham Lincoln stood up against the forces of slavery that slavery was abolished in the U.S. (Except among millionaire Indonesian immigrants!)
As a society we should treat those who politely refuse to be counted as feckless. In reality I have great respect for many with whom I disagree, so long as they are honest about where they stand. (That counts out many dems. Oh do I long for the good old days of Paul Tsongas and Paul Wellstone! It is ironic that the one dem who was honest about where he stood, Joe Lieberman was tossed under the bus by his party.) Perhaps this respect shows up in practical terms with my many Roman Catholic friends. I strongly disagree with them on many issues. But those RC's that know where they stand and are willing to be counted are always treated with respect, as they should be. We should glorify the willingness to stand on the important issues of the day. Polite silence doesn't cut it.