Tuesday, March 30, 2010

We Need to Stand Up to the Thugs

I cannot write coolly about the rising tide of hatred in America. I'd love to be able to come up with a rational journalistic effort that succinctly spells out the problem and offers some convenient solutions. But I am not there yet. I have torn up two dozen attempts.

A week ago, Tea Party protesters shouted "Nigger" at African American Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a hero of the civil rights movement.

It used to be easy to step back, and to say that these sorts of things were only muttered by the lunatic fringe. Ignore them --- they have to real power in America. Not my America. Not now.

Rep. Steve Driehaus (D-OH), who voted for the health care bill, said that he has since gotten multiple death threats.

Just do not "sink to their level", and they will stop. Isn't that the conventional wisdom? Just do not dignify what they say with a response. But that is not working. Silence is just fanning the flames.

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) was called a "Faggot," while protesters mocked him. Frank told the Washington newspaper The Hill that he was also called a “homo communist” and told to “go homo to Massachusetts." He also had to call Capitol police “to move away” five or six protesters who were banging on his office door and yelling through the mail slot.

We have free speech in America. We need to defend these people's rights to be stupid, anti-intellectual bigots. But where is the line drawn between free speech and inciting to riot? Or inciting to cultivate hatred?

I spent some time looking on the web, trying to convince myself that hate sites were there, but in small numbers. When I was done, I felt that I had rubbed my eyes in raw sewage.

I just saw an online video game in which the object was to kill illegal immigrants from Mexico to the USA. One group to kill was called "Breeders". They object was to position a target sight over a large woman running in fear with her children.

Just do not draw attention to this evil garbage. That is what we were told, right?

But in doing so, we are allowing a Thug Mentality to develop. I watch the likes of Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh for five minutes and I want to vomit -- my stomach feels like I swallowed razor blades. It is not just because I disagree with them. It is also because, in my opinion, they are deliberate liars. Add the "birthers" to the mix and my eyeballs start spinning backwards in my head.

Will frightened Americans believe anything? And what are the terrifying consequences that come from the free expression of hatred, and the deliberate fanning of the flames of bigotry?

Politico44 reports a disturbing rejection by the RNC:

The Republican National Committee has rejected a proposal from its Democratic counterpart to sign a joint “civility” statement, POLITICO has learned.

Various members of the DNC — including Chairman Tim Kaine, Executive Director Jen O’Malley Dillon and Communications Director Brad Woodhouse — contacted their respective RNC counterparts this week in hopes of getting RNC Chairman Michael Steele to co-sign a document with Kaine that, in part, called for “elected officials of both parties to set an example of the civility we want to see in our citizenry.”

“We also call on all Americans to respect differences of opinion, to refrain from inappropriate forms of intimidation, to reject violence and vandalism, and to scale back rhetoric that might reasonably be misinterpreted by those prone to such behavior,” read the proposed joint statement.

This was rejected by the Republican National Committee. REJECTED!?

Every time some absurd statement is made that describes some other group with a nasty epithet, the speaker makes them less than human. Why? Because it is easier to hate a XXX than a lesbian woman named Mary, or an African American grandfather named William, or a Muslim daughter named Fatima, or a Spanish man named Enrique.

The sewers of race hatred have backed up in America. Can it feel any different from what preceded Hitler's rise in Germany?

Another blog I won't link to has a picture of a noose with the caption that "It Is Possible to Hang Someone Important in Government for Treason". Beneath that is a poster of Obama...it says "Wanted for Treason"

This is not your ordinary hate speech we are seeing these days. It is hate speech that is edging people into potentially violent action.

Sarah Palin "targets" certain Democratic Congresspeople. She shows them on a map with gun-sights over their locations. When challenged about that (even by Elizabeth Hasselback on The View) she does not back down. Palin tweeted:“Commonsense Conservatives & lovers of America : “Don’t Retreat, Instead RELOAD!”

Watch this video and hear this issue thoughtfully discussed.

Bad things are afoot in America. I do not think we should just ignore them. The kind of hateful grumblings that preceded Hitler's rise to power echo in what we hear today -- blaming other races for our misfortunes, seeing people we decide are "enemies" as less than human. In an alarming cautionary note, the Nazi party never even got 38% of the popular vote to rise to power. How many Americans have to start saying hateful things, doing hateful things before we decide to speak out in opposition, or to hold them in some way accountable?

Or do we just let them believe what those who are jerking their marionette strings want them to believe?

A recent Harris poll quoted by John Avalon in The Daily Beast reveals:

* 67 percent of Republicans (and 40 percent of Americans overall) believe that Obama is a socialist
* 57 percent of Republicans (32 percent overall) believe that Obama is a Muslim
* 45 percent of Republicans (25 percent overall) agree with the Birthers in their belief that Obama was "not born in the United States and so is not eligible to be president"
* 38 percent of Republicans (20 percent overall) say that Obama is "doing many of the things that Hitler did"
* Scariest of all, 24 percent of Republicans (14 percent overall) say that Obama "may be the Antichrist."

Avalon goes on to say : "The poll, which surveyed 2,230 people right at the height of the health-care reform debate, also clearly shows that education is a barrier to extremism. Respondents without a college education are vastly more likely to believe such claims, while Americans with college degrees or better are less easily duped. It's a reminder of what the 19th-century educator Horace Mann once too-loftily said: 'Ignorance breeds monsters to fill up the vacancies of the soul that are unoccupied by the verities of knowledge.' "

It's time to stand up, to speak out, to not let snarling dogs lie.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The gay rights activists picked up the mantra a long time ago, starting with the AIDS crisis.

Silence = Death.

I prefer the argument that Air Thomas Moore used in defense of his life (although he was trying to be sly)

"Silence is Consent"

I have never shied from telling someone immediately that their name-calling is unacceptable to me.
I have even done so by telling the owner of the house, and then taking my leave, because it was his house, but I was not going to tolerate such speech.

It makes me wonder how many of the silent are being polite, versus just partially agreeing?

11:18 AM  
Blogger Mata H said...

Hello Anonymous...

Well, with so much at stake, being polite causes injury.

Thanks for the quotes and the comment and for standing up!


6:59 PM  

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