Remember last fall when I went into a profound mental fugue state over some jackwad who stomped on a woman’s head at a political event because he liked one candidate and she didn’t? I found myself revisiting that mental space this morning when I read this little gem on salon.com. Apparently, a Congressman was holding a town hall and a charming young man stood up and asked him “Who is going to shoot Obama?”. The crowd thought that was a laugh riot. The Congressman retored with something about getting a conservative into the White House in 2012 and carried on.
Makes me kinda wonder what that Congressman was saying when one of his colleagues was shot in the head by a madman last month.
Who the fuck thinks even JOKING about shooting people is ok? And why didn’t the duly elected leader of our nation he was talking to cut him off at the knees when he said it? Correcting deviant behavior is basic (and, yes, joking about shooting people is deviant, make no mistake about it). I caught my son and a friend of his pushing each other on the playground the other day and I marched right up, scolded my kid, explained why pushing is wrong and made him apologize. That’s what parents do. The good Congressman is either not a parent or one of those kinds of parents who stands by chuckling and saying “Boys will be boys” when his kid is smashing the class nerd’s face into a mud puddle. Because a GOOD parent would have responded to a joke about assassinating the President by saying “That isn’t funny. We don’t shoot people. You should be ashamed for even thinking that. I’m personally calling the Secret Service to have you investigated because you’re clearly open to the idea of putting the President in danger and that is illegal, not to mention immoral. Unacceptable.”
Why the hell didn’t he say that? Why is being a wingnut with violent tendencies forgivable? I simply do not understand.
I remember vividly a conversation with some coworkers shortly after Obama’s election. We were mostly Democrats and saw Obama as the light at the end of our tunnel. We all felt battered by 7 years of wars that, after the first blush of anti-terrorist fervor wore off, had no discernible positive end. Most of us hated the Patriot Act on civil liberties grounds and we were stunned at the irresponsible spending of Congress in those years of not putting the wars in the regular budget process but instead authorizing billions upon billions of dollars using “emergency supplemental” spending bills that are one of the major causes of our current deficit. The election process had rocked us all back on our heels from the heat coming off both sides of the political spectrum but the end had been decisive. Obama had won and we were ready for change.
Conversation that day turned to the Inauguration. Millions were expected to arrive in town to watch this man take the Oath of Office. As we talked about crowds and Metro closings and our plans for the day, we got to the worries so many had about the President-elect’s safety in the big open space with so many people around. Security was a big deal. An unprecedented deal. The lone Republican in the room spoke up and said “I sure didn’t vote for that man but I hope they keep him safe.”
That’s what sanity sounds like.
There’s just no excuse for all of this “Shoot the enemy!” crap that keeps getting tossed around. President Obama is not your enemy. Speaker Boehner is not your enemy. I’m not the enemy of my Republican coworker. She’s not my enemy. But this guy who asked who would shoot the President? He embodies the true nature of being an enemy. He wishes a person harm. He is cavalier about a person’s safety. He is willing to use violence against a person over ideological disagreement. That guy, and everyone like him who views violence as an answer, is the enemy. We can’t tolerate them walking among us anymore. They have to be told, from all corners, that they are wrong. Violent words leads to violent acts, as Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords found out last month. We just can’t make jokes about punching a person in the throat or roundhouse kicking them in the head or kicking them in the taco. We can’t laugh about talk of shooting the President. We can’t. It’s not really funny, as we would all remember the minute the blows land or the bullet finds its mark.
Let’s please, please, please remember to be gentle in our words and deeds. And remind others to do the same. Please?