Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Census Worker Hanging... What Pelosi Warned?

On September 12th, part time census worker Bill Sparkman was found hanging in the woods of rural Kentucky with the word "fed" written on his chest.  His death has prompted speculation that the incident is politically motivated.

If it is revealed that his death was indeed a homicide (as an unnamed official has alleged) and not a suicide, then the media and the public have a very important challenge ahead.  Since polarizing political turmoil often leads to the level of crisis before the parties involved decide to moderate, the question is whether our nation can change course in time to avoid more bloodshed.
Our country is being polarized by conscious forces down the road to extremity -- the corollary of which has historically been violence.  Those who are stoking the irrational fears which most of us chuckle at every day (I needn't really name them all), tend to be well educated and successful individuals.  As such, they are undoubtedly aware of how venomous ideas are capable of manifesting themselves: violently.  Yet Republican lawmakers, cable hosts, and radio personalities are riling up fears that a Manchurian-Kenyan-socialist and his secretly anti-American comrades are planning to turn this country into the Fourth Reich.  They lend credibility to the idea that the Democrats want to kill your grandmother, and that the 2010 census will lay the groundwork for FEMA's secret concentration camps.
When an individual comes to believe these malignant distortions, it then becomes rational for them to kill in defense of country; just as when one comes to believe that exploding themselves amongst a group of civilian infidels is a righteous act commanded by God, that person can then justify acting.  Beliefs are powerful catalysts.
When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently warned of the consequences of hateful rhetoric, she was promptly lambasted by the right.  Similarly, Janet Napolitano was bullied by the right, until she apologized, for a D.H.S report that warned of rising right-wing extremism in response to the election of Barack Obama.  Conservative voices are always heard feigning outrage when such cautionary statements are made... "How dare you imply these things! I could not foresee that calling a man 'Tiller the baby-killer' on prime-time could lead to his demise!"
We don't have all the facts regarding Bill Sparkman's death.  Yet if this tragedy turns out to be unrelated to politics, that would be beside the point.  The fact that, upon hearing of this incident, politically minded people wonder whether the death was a result of right wing invective is telling.  I can't recall a single murder over the last eight years that immediately led us to ask whether left-wing extremists, riled-up by the Democrats in Congress or the main-stream-media, were responsible.  Yet we have seen multiple such incidents this year on the other side: the shooting at the Holocaust Museum, Dr. Tiller, etc.
We must be careful not to blame these acts of violence on Congressional Republicans or Conservative commentators.  We can, however, make them share the responsibility of creating and fueling the malformed beliefs that rationalize acts of violence.  With adequate will, the public can force Fox News to own responsibility for continuing to actively distort and manipulate the truth, propagating dangerous beliefs.  A large enough movement might force advertisers to go elsewhere.  And the other news networks could conceivably challenge and correct conservative (and liberal) politicians who intentionally distort the facts.  Is this wishful thinking?  I don't know.
Do not misinterpret this as a call for censorship.  Political speech, even hate speech, is protected under the first amendment.  Free speech, however, does not exempt you from public ridicule.  The mocking, teasing, and ostracizing of those who spread hateful or dishonest beliefs is not childish or immoral, it is effective.  Those who act cynically and childishly do not deserve public "respect"  (to our servile media, "respect" means exemption from being challenged).
When Glenn Beck muses of poisoning Nancy Pelosi, he and his network should be forced to own his distaste.  When lawmakers lie about a bill's content, their trespasses should be more visibly outed.  Presently, those who engage in this behavior know they can get away with it.

Remember when Imus was fired for making a racial slur?  That seems so insignificant today... At least relative to calling our black president a racist Nazi (the irony is not lost on some of us).

I have feared for a while now that these dangerous beliefs will metastasize until they infect the right person, who will then decide it's time to assassinate Pelosi, or another amongst the leadership. President Reagan had more Secret Service protection than does the Speaker, yet the bullet still managed to find its target. I realize that it's a horrid thing to say. For that reason, I have kept my mouth shut thus far. However, I fear the circumstances are flirting with exactly this level of gravity, so I think it's important to say.

We should all hear Speaker Pelosi's warning with unfiltered attention.
Update - November 24th, 2009:  Fortunately, the officials in the Sparkman case now say his death was a suicide.  We might breathe a sigh of relief for rural Kentucky, but the point of the article remains urgent as ever.  In fact, since publication, the rhetoric has only worsened. 

The preceding was originally published on The Huffington Post.  You can find links to my other articles on the feed to the right...

1 comment:

  1. I wouldn't shed a tear over any of them being assassinated, though I have no plans or intentions of doing it myself or aiding anyone else for that matter.