Worried About the Crazies
Given that comments by John McCain, Sarah Palin and their surrogates like Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) seem to feed a hostile environment in an already fearful time, is the threat of potential violence and more division within our country real? Or does the past experience of the 1960's, for those of us who lived through that decade, perhaps cause people to be more fearful of this than is rational? I try to think this through without allowing my emotions to dictate my thoughts, but the specter of those times and the resulting deaths of John and Bobby Kennedy won't be still! Am I a foolish old lady or is the GOP incapable of learning from history and therefore doomed to repeat it?
These are tough issues, and your grappling is heartfelt; it is clear you are not a foolish old lady.
These are not the 1960's. But a nation's political traditions -- and criminal traditions -- are influenced by its past, so there is no telling what some crazy individual may do to try to gain perverse immortality. Entire Broadway musicals have been devoted to this country's sad history of political assassinations.
I generally believe that political speech shouldn't be curtailed, and that it would be wrong to blame the actions of individual crazies on sophomoric political rhetoric, even when crudely unfair. That said, the Republican ticket is acting in a reprehensible, reckless manner that demonstrates a complete disregard for, if not ignorance of, history. When McCain goes around asking "Who is the real Barack Obama?," he is prompting you to connect the dots his sleaze machine has already provided: that Obama Hussein Obama (original emphasis) came out of nowhere, has confusing foreign roots and "terrorist" connections.
Michele Bachmann, as you allude to, became an instant celebrity on the political blogosphere when she went on MSNBC's Hardball last Friday to rail against Obama's anti-American views. She then idiotically suggested that the media "take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out, are they pro-America or anti-America." The only thing more frightening would be suggesting that Congress look at whether the views of members of the media, intellectuals and others are "pro-America or anti-America." (Oh wait, don't tell Congresswoman Bachmann, but we've done that already in this country.)
McCain's political operatives cynically shovel this stuff because that's the game they play and the campaign is desperate. But there is sufficient reason to worry about the safety of an African-American candidate in this country, sadly, without his opponents accusing him of being a terrorist-loving anti-American. What if someone scared about the "real Obama" pulled a gun at an Obama rally?
McCain himself seems to have become worried recently by the increasingly nasty tenor of his rallies. He's started toning down the vitriol, reassuring his "friends" that Obama is indeed an American worthy of respect. But you can't flick xenophobic/ignorant hatred on and off at will, like some light bulb. You can't encourage some of your more impassioned supporters on Monday to believe that Obama is a traitor, or a sleeper terrorist who has infiltrated our society, and then ask folks on Tuesday to rise above their hatred and fear.
In the debate, I was somewhat puzzled by McCain's declaration that Sarah Palin knows a lot about autism. Has she been actively involved in helping families of those afflicted? Is there a family member with autism? Or is McCain simply confusing her baby's Down's syndrome with autism?
It was a confusing moment, because Sen. McCain didn't give us more context - and he hasn't offered much explanation the other times he's connected Gov. Palin with autism, either. But I don't think he himself is confused. Palin does have a teenage nephew with autism.
With Gen. Colin Powell's endorsement of Obama, can we now say it is game, set and match point?
It looked like match point even before the endorsement. Congratulations to Gen. Powell for getting his endorsement in before the votes were cast. But if he felt as strongly about the country's need to elect Obama over McCain as he suggested Sunday on "Meet the Press," he should have taken a stand a month or so ago, at least.
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