Saturday, June 13, 2009

Holocaust Museum Reaction (a bit of a rant)

I've refrained from writing on the Holocaust Museum shooting because, when I had tried writing earlier, I couldn't form a coherent thought on the subject. I'm frustrated with these extreme conservative acts of violence -- they need to stop.

I don't fault the ideology itself; I want to make that clear. It would be stupid to say that conservatism is responsible for the insane actions of a few die-hard psychopaths who feel that they're righteous in their actions, that they're doing humanity a favor by committing these acts of violence, of murdering their fellow man. The policies that conservatives espouse are nowhere near what those extremists believe.

I just wish I could say the same of some conservative commentators, whose vile rhetoric sometimes mirrors that of the extremists who are perpetrating these acts of terror. I worry, because I know for a fact that these extremists listen to and base their beliefs around the words of these hate-filled commentators.

I know this because I once came face to face with a potential extremist.

OK, I may be exaggerating a bit. But the situation is enough to strike fear into anyone who is confronted with it. While canvassing for a non-profit advocacy group last fall, working to get Barack Obama and other progressives elected, I met a vast amount of people whom I wouldn't label as "pleasant." They'd debate me, slam the door on me, or tell me to get off their lawn that minute. None of them, however, scared me as much as the man I met on the east side of Madison.

This homeowner told me he was an undecided voter; but when I went about trying to see how he felt about Obama, he let me know for sure how he felt about the man who was yet to become our next president.

He quoted FOX News commentators directly, stating that Obama's ties to ACORN and alleged terrorist William Ayers were despicable. I proceeded to go into my talking points (which I wrote myself), presenting him with facts that these allegations were wrong or greatly exaggerated. He then told me he'd never vote for a Muslim, or anyone who couldn't provide a proper birth certificate; when I refuted those claims, he instead directed his hostilities toward liberals in general, and we debated for a few minutes about the "facts" he tried to present to me ("liberals are nothing more than communists," is what I remember).

Then, he said the words that still send chills down my spine:

"Maybe I ought to bring out my shotgun, and remind this country what a real assassination looks like."

At that point I excused myself and walked away. I wasn't trained to deal with a response like that. I had been trained to debate policy, not the merits of assassination of a presidential candidate.

Since that time, there have been countless acts of aggression perpetrated by extreme conservatives. Most have ended in deaths for innocent, law-abiding citizens.

It sickens me, then, when I hear more vile from the conservative commentators these extremists admire and emulate. We continue to hear extreme rhetoric about the president -- he's a Muslim (said with an air of degradation), he's a socialist, he's a reverse racist. We hear the same about liberalism in general as well -- it's an ideology full of godless, moral-less, communists who want to control your lives.

Say what you will about the merits or problems with liberalism -- your views are yours to make. But having views that match the hateful rhetoric these commentators spew is one of the most disgraceful and cowardly acts you can commit.

These views are derived out of fear -- an unwarranted one that assumes liberals are enemies of the state. This fear, then is used to motivate those who oppose liberalism beyond a healthy level; anything that can be used against a liberal is then used. Obama's grandfather or father was a Muslim? Well, so is Obama, then! And remember this: Muslims attacked us on September 11!

Is Obama, then, complicit in the attacks? Of course not, and the commentators know this. But in order to feed the fear to their viewers, these commentators leave it at that, expanding on nothing more than Obama is a Muslim, and Muslims are trying to kill us.

Of course, these allegations misinform to the umpteenth degree: Islam isn't really a violent faith, and Obama isn't really a Muslim anyway. But the assertions strike fear in the extremists. In a way, these commentators want to strike fear, to get their enemies -- liberals -- out of office. They don't actually want violence -- they want conservative rule.

The byproduct, however, is this: a couple dead cops in Pittsburgh; a dead woman's health care provider in Wichita; a dead Unitarian church-goer in Knoxville, Tennessee; and now, a dead guard in Washington D.C. This violence will continue, I fear, so long as the nasty, hate-filled rhetoric of extreme conservative commentators fill the airwaves. It's time that we say "enough."

I'm not advocating restricting free speech. What I wouldn't mind seeing, however, is a boycott of these shows. Conversely, with radio, a massive call-in by liberals to shows like Rush or Hannity -- thereby plugging up the phone lines so that they'd HAVE to listen to us -- might be useful as well. Maybe then we can send a message to these voices of extreme conservatism. Maybe then meaningful debate -- not a shouting match -- can begin.

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