Sunday, January 9, 2011
I'm not usually overtly political in this forum, but I feel unable to sit quiet regarding the events in Tucson: The attempted assassination of a sitting U.S. congresswoman, presumably for her political beliefs, and the "collateral damage" of six innocent people, including a nine year old girl. Following is the text of a letter I wrote to Joel Connelly, a longtime columnist to the Seattle Times, who wrote a creditable piece on the rise of violent rhetoric in American politics. Editorials | Reject poisonous political rhetoric | Seattle Times Newspaper
The scuttling of the the hard right to take cover behind pious words would be funny to watch if it weren't so calculated and disingenuous. They know as well as you and I do that their words are not innocuous. Every genocide of modern times has been preceded by a long period of ramping up of violent rhetoric towards the eventual victims. In Rwanda particularly, radio personalities and talking heads spent many many hours exhorting the public to murder. Not that I think the U.S. is on the brink of a domestic holocaust or anything, but the American people need to be reminded that before atrocities can take place, a climate of hatred and justification of violence must first be created. And the Right is working overtime to create such a climate.
I especially fear the incredibly incendiary language used against undocumented immigrants and their children. Many on the Right have been consciously constructing a culture of dehumanization against them, comparing them to livestock or to dogs (when talking about electrified fences and microchips), and attempting to strip Latino babies of their natural-born citizenship. I hate to admit it, but I can easily see a massive roundup and deportation campaign reminiscent of the Japanese internment camps of WWII. Concentration camps on the American landscape may seem farfetched, but not when you meditate on Sherrif Arapaio's circus in the desert and his staged forced marches of Mexican prisoners through the streets of Phoenix, where they are subject to the revilement and abuse of ordinary Americans. That such things can take place in this country without provoking massive outrage makes me both frightened and sad.
Friends, I urge you not to remain silent about racism, political extremism, sexism, expressions of hatred or exhortations to violence. Most of us, like myself, have a very small pulpit, but whatever platform you have, be it as humble as the family dinner table, please use it to promote peace. No cause is so exalted as to justify assassination; no righteous ideology demands violence.
Peace be upon you,