Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Free-floating hate

The U.S.A. is a fractious country. There are always various political and social factions in the nation that pull and push against each other and engage in hyperbole and sometimes outright lies when describing their opponents. Only once in our history has all this hatred actually boiled over into a shooting war, although there have been some other skirmishes that have come close, and periodically some militia movement somewhere in the country will decide that it is ready to begin the next war against the federal government. The phrase "delusions of grandeur" springs to mind.

For the most part, all of this heat is contained. The First Amendment is a powerful escape valve. People who are able to congregate and freely speak out about whatever is bothering them - even if it is complete twaddle - have more difficulty building up steam for actual violent action. Their steam escapes through the mechanism provided by the Founders of our country. Those old guys really were pretty smart.

Thus, though the pot boils, it doesn't usually boil over. All of this roiling of the waters simply ensures that we will live in interesting times. But these times are getting a little too interesting for me. When we have groups of people marching on state Capitols openly wearing firearms or marching as close as they can get to Washington, D.C. while wearing firearms, the situation becomes more dangerous. Eventually, I predict that some nut is going to go off literally half-cocked in one of these demonstrations and somebody is going to be hurt.

Meantime, we have idiots, including some idiot elected representatives, encouraging attacks on Democratic leaders' offices, encouraging their followers to harass these people, and even suggesting that they should be killed. And then there is the faction that completely refuses to acknowledge Barack Obama as the legally and democratically elected (by a substantial margin) president of the country. One of them, it seems, was a lieutenant colonel in the Army who refused deployment because, he said, President Obama was not legally president and commander-in-chief of the armed forces and he had no right to command him. The Army will court martial him and perhaps a few years in Leavenworth might help him to see things more clearly.

As I say, this has always been a fractious country throughout its brief history, but within my lifetime - and I lived through the '60s - I don't remember a time when there has been so much free-floating hatred and intolerance for other people abroad in the country. It seems to be boiling up, building up to something, and I have no doubt that the F.B.I. and other law enforcement agencies around the country are working overtime trying to prevent an explosion. As we approach the 15th anniversary of the bombing of the Murrah building in Oklahoma City, it might be a good time for all those fiery speakers to dial back their rhetoric a bit and remember that words can have consequences. It might be a good time to show respect for those with whom we disagree politically and to show respect for the laws and the political system of our country. It would definitely be a good time to give the people who put their lives on the line to enforce those laws a break. We don't need a repeat of Oklahoma City.

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