Back in January 2005, I wrote an editorial for the Philly Inquirer about my experience at the second inauguration of George W. Bush. I’d faced some angry folks before, in my days as a Greenpeace canvasser, but nothing I’d ever seen had prepared me for the bile, anger, and general insanity of the crowd in Washington, DC. I, a pacifist, told some loudmouth the world would be better off if he were dead. People yelled profanities back and forth; protesters from both sides displayed Nazi insignia drawn onto posters.
My editorial was an exhortation to people at all points on the spectrum to ratchet down the anger a notch. I registered my own anxiety at how I’d behaved and didn’t accuse anybody of being “wrong.” I thought we’d all just gotten stressed out and needed a reminder that the tone we were taking with each other wasn’t healthy or useful.
I should have known I wasn’t getting anywhere when a week later 3 anonymous death threats showed up at my house. Even then, I assumed the people making those threats were aberrations. When I called the editor at the Inauirer about writing about the death threats, his response was, “I’d recommend you not do that. You kicked the rock once and they poked their heads out. Kick it again and there’s no telling what they’ll do.”
Flash forward to 2008. Sarah Palin didn’t invent hate, but she sure capitalized on it as she made an entire campaign out her detestably angry hatred towards everybody in the world who isn’t just like her. Or put differently, she kicked the same rock I did, but she kept on kicking and kicking, ensuring that the nasty slugs who live under it came out. Along with Rush Limbaugh, the entire staff of Fox News, and other rightwing media mavens, the loony Right has done little for the last couple of years besides firing up the hate machine and its victims, um, consumers.
Today’s news from Prescott, AZ for some reason just infuriated me, maybe more than anything else these monsters have done in the last few years. If you haven’t seen the story, a rightwing radio talk show host who also serves on the Prescott City Council provoked his listeners to drive by a grade school at which there was a mural depicting the ethnically diverse student body. This talk show host got people yelling racial epithets, very explicit ones, at kids in the school yard in an effort to get the black and Hispanic faces painted white.
It worked. I don’t blame the principle of the school–not really, although I’d certainly have liked to see him fight this. His rationale for caving in is that he worried about the students–remember these are grade-schoolers–exposed to that level of hatred and potential violence while they were outside being kids.
No, my real problems are with: (1) the talk show host and councilperson who provoked all this–why haven’t the citizens of Prescott run this asshole out of town on a rail? and (2) the idiots who thought it was a good idea to drive by a school screaming racist names at little kids. What the hell is wrong with these people?
Some good thinkers seem convinced that this level of racism is a product of economic insecurity. Maybe, but so what? Frankly, as much as I’m almost a socialist, every act of racism like this one makes me care less about people who are such racists. Sure, economic instability might be enabling their racism, but in order for that to be true, the racism had to be there in the first place. There are plenty of poor, hungry, scared people who don’t act like that and never would.
It’s high time that those of us with brains stand up to these idiots and let them know that kind of behavior isn’t welcome in our universe. If they want to go hide out somewhere, learn to use their weapons, and kill each other, it’s getting harder for me not to say, “Go to it, assholes.”
UPDATED 6/5, 10 am.: The Prescott News reports that radio station KYCA has fired Steve Blair, the councilman/talk-show host whose provocations led to this–