BY EDWIN E. VINEYARD
There is too much hate, vitriol, and outright hostility in political discourse in America today. Also, there are too many lies and too much deceit. There is too much hyperbole in the rhetoric coming from the right. There are too many signs with hate slogans. There are too many ignorant, artificial linkages of present day proposals with the outrages of Nazi Germany 65 years ago – all with hate connotations.
The misapplications of terms like “red,” “pinko,” “socialist,” and “communist” abound. These are hate code-words. There may not be more than a dozen or so real communists in the entire country, and none are likely in government. “Communist China” is no longer really communist, but rather a capitalistic economy with an autocratic, one-party government. The term “socialist” is rarely used in a technically correct and descriptive fashion, but rather as a political attack word.
It is hard to decide whether it is more scary to think these people are really that ignorant, or if they are simply exercising rhetorical attack hyperbole. Either way it is inappropriate in civilized discourse.
The hypocrisy of those carrying flags and cheering right wing speakers calling for revolution against their constitutionally and democratically elected government is unbelievable. Party speakers keep using the words “patriotic” and “freedom” amongst calls to become traitors to the democracy they are sworn to serve and protect. Are they too dumb to realize the conflict and offensiveness of their rhetoric, or do they just not care – if it scores them a political point with their right wing base?
What kind of craziness is there in applauding signs among the rabble saying, “Next time we bring guns”? How can congressional republican leaders speak such vehemently inflammatory language to a rowdy crowd so far out as to be carrying signs with pictures of Hitler’s death camp dead? How about the signs waving down front: “the Red in the White House”?
One would hope that titular leaders of any political party would be a step or two above condoning such uncivil, un-American, and threatening behavior. This kind of over-the-top language has been coming consistently from the likes of Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh. Apparently they are now setting the style for the party leaders, since these have joined the hate speech approach to politics.
When a crazed mob crashes the doors and trample over security personnel and one another at a Christmas sale, Walmart is successfully sued in court for damages for not exercising sufficient precautionary measures. How is it that those who utter inflammatory hate speech in front of angry mobs are not held to account? How is it that the extremists on talk radio and Fox News channel are not held to account for inciting violence? How is it that anti-abortion groups and radical “ministers” are not held responsible when their inflammatory “baby-killing” rhetoric results in murder?
Although the congressional race in upper New York speaks to the contrary for those rabid extremists in the republican party, God help us, and God save America, if this ever really becomes a populist movement embraced by a majority of our people. Although impressive, a few thousand from the lunatic fringe, bussed into Washington by right wing political activist organizations, with big corporate support, does not a real grass roots movement make.
One would like to dismiss this movement as being from a bunch of “ditto heads” and “right wing kooks,” thus not a serious threat. But since when does free speech include yelling “fire” while standing before a crazy bunch of arsonists with torches in their hands. These are not ordinary, rational people. At best they could be termed “a rabble with a mob mentality.” That kind of a mob cannot be controlled once they are set off.
Do we really think we can continue to inflame passions of suggestible people and not cause violent and irrational behavior? It is easy to see in the results of the rhetorical hyperbole about abortions. Some fools decide they are doing God’s will by going out and shooting doctors down in church.
It is difficult to argue with some Republicans. If crossed, they go immediately into a tirade. Everything is emotional to them. Perhaps it is so with some democrats as well. But we should be able to exchange views in a rational and civil way. If we don’t learn to do so, we are headed to national civil strife, violence, and bloodshed.
In commenting that some people are difficult to reason with, this writer is reminded of a conversation with a college dean who taught an adult Sunday School class in a fundamentalist church. He recounted his efforts to have class discussion of some controversial topics and issues. He was frustrated, he said, because one class member insisted on always being right. When cornered and asked for reasons for her views, she always said, “God told me!”
The dean remarked that this threw cold water on his efforts for an open and rational discussion. And, so it does with our discussions of some issues. In other cases, partisans simply resort to name calling. “That is socialist,” they will say – not because it is a correct label, but because of its negative connotation. If anyone believes that, then the discussion is over.
So it is with any discussions about the looming, problematic social and economic shadow of ever-increasing disparity in income and wealth in this country. This festers out there on the edge of the awareness of most people. Waiting to reach a critical level of awareness, it forebodes serious future conflicts and troublesome upheaval. We are headed for certain trouble.
But if one mentions the problem, or looking for avoidance solutions, then the bugaboo of “redistribution of wealth” and “socialism” is brought forward – effectively killing any real consideration. One should not mention that our tax and trade policies the last 25 years have been essentially “class-warfare” on the middle class worker in our society, moving us toward a society of “haves and have-nots” and economic feudalism.
We cannot go on with our rhetorical violence and closed-mindedness, lest it gradually or suddenly descend to actual violence. It is hard to believe that any political leaders actually want this, but it is in their talk. How else can we judge?
– Dr. Edwin E. Vineyard, AKA The Militant Moderate, lives in Enid, OK and is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer