I for one am not surprised at the reports surfacing over the last twenty four hours that there have been attacks, threats and vandalism aimed at Democrats who voted in favor of health care reform. As of this morning there are ten such reported cases, including one that suggested Congressmen (D-MI) should drown himself. Congresswoman Giffords (D-AZ) had the windows of her hometown office broken by some unidentified projectile. There has also been a report of an attack on a Congressman’s family member that if accurate, would constitute a federal crime. Having witnessed Congressmen and Senators being spit upon and subject to racial and homosexual slurs by anti-government fanatics this past weekend, why would anyone be surprised by this latest display of incivility?
Shortly after the inauguration of Barack Obama the Department of Homeland Security issued a warning that an increase in domestic anti-government violence was a distinct possibility. This report was the subject of much derision from the Right at the time but consider what has happened since then. Since the election of Barack Obama we have had a guy in Pittsburg kill policemen because he was angry that the government was now “Run by Jews” and that it would “take his guns away”. We had a guy kill a doctor who performed abortions and then try to frame himself as a patriot in so doing. Sorry but murder is not patriotic. We had a murder at the Holocaust Museum by an individual who when captured said: “This is how you’ll get my guns from me”. Another anti-government zealot crashed his plane into the IRS building in Austin Texas as if that would in some way actually contribute to the abolition of the agency. In reality, all that this action accomplished was the killing of an innocent man. Only the Pentagon subway stop shooting can legitimately be classified as the work of a mentally incapacitated person, regardless of his anti-government rant. All summer long we had to watch the farcical spectacle of Tea Party patriots playing minuteman by bringing loaded weapons to rallies while holding signs that suggested it was time for a second American Revolution. There are many who will read this and try to make an argument that political violence is now somehow justified, alluding to some sort of Revolutionary War fantasy. There has been all manner of infatuation with ideas of an armed “citizens revolt”; a military coup, even talk of an attempt on the life of the President, all of it being nothing more than the pipe dream of people who have now become political dead enders. It is to be noted by all that these far right fanatics have been aided and abetted in their dangerous fantasies by the reckless rhetoric of Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh and the rest of the professional political entertainers on the far right who masquerade as legitimate political commentators.
The Republican Minority Leader, John Boehner (R-OH) has already issued a statement condemning violence on the floor of the House of Representatives. That is surely commendable as no informed observer of American politics would for a moment believe that the G.O.P. is in favor of such a thing. But I would also urge Congressman Boehner to direct his comments to some in his own party, like Michele Bachmann (R-MN) or those like her who have a history of incendiary anti-government rhetoric in their political track record. When an elected official engages in blatantly reckless and inflammatory behavior it only serves to stoke up the sentiments of those on the far right fringe and can serve, in their minds, as a “call to action.” In his assessment of the Republican debacle that has arisen from the passage of health care reform, the veteran conservative commentator David Frum observed: “We followed the most radical voices in the party and the movement, and they led us to abject and irreversible defeat. There were leaders who knew better, who would have liked to deal. But they were trapped. Conservative talkers on Fox and talk radio had whipped the Republican voting base into such frenzy that deal-making was rendered impossible… So today’s defeat for free-market economics and Republican values is a huge win for the conservative entertainment industry. Their listeners and viewers will now be even more enraged, even more frustrated, even more disappointed in everybody except the responsibility-free talkers on television and radio. For them, its mission accomplished. For the cause they purport to represent, its Waterloo all right: ours.” The degree to which increasing levels of political violence detracts or derails the message of the Republican Party in the future is unknowable at this time. But for an organization that is polling the lowest favorability numbers in its history, it is just one more reason for people to disregard the G.O.P. message on Election Day and one more problem the Republican Party can do without.
There will be those on the Right who will issue the counter argument that all one need do is to look back to the sixties and you will find plenty of violence perpetrated by the left. Some will conjure up the various red scares of the past and say that there has been more than on instance in American history where Communists in labor unions and among university professors sought to overthrow or subvert the American way of life. But you can tally up all of the left wing violence in the history of this country and you won’t put a dent in the death toll from the Oklahoma City Bombing, an act perpetrated by a violently anti-government fanatic. It is for that reason that it is now the patriotic duty of every American to stand up to the fanatics on the far right, be it at political rallies, on the streets, in the blogs, by calling in to talk radio, by text messaging the Glenn Beck show, etc., or by writing to the media organizations that sanction such programming and registering you opposition to this virulent rhetoric that only serves to fuel politically driven violence and intolerance. The next time some right wing crackpot tells you that he and his compatriots are going to “take back their country” ask them from whom, the people who voted in the majority for change. It is time for Progressives to stand up to thugs and fanatics of any stripe, be they far to either the left or right, and to no longer tolerate threats of violence on the part of those who having lost out in the political arena, have chosen to attempt change through extra legal means.
In an interview following the attack on her office, Congresswoman Giffords said that America was a beacon around the world because we create change via the ballot box and not through political violence and intimidation. In thinking back upon much of the rhetoric from the right that has surrounded the advent of the Obama Administration, I can not help but to recall the warning that Sinclair Lewis made back in the 1930s: “If Fascism ever comes to the United States it will be wrapped in the flag and borne upon a crucifix”. In spite of the fact that the country was in a far more perilous position then than it is now, Lewis’ words were as relevant today as they were in the midst of the Great Depression and they should be on the minds of every true American patriot.
Steven J. Gulitti
March 25, 2010