Sunday, February 21, 2010

When Rhetoric Becomes Violent

Rachel Maddow and Chris Hayes discuss the violent rhetoric being used by the right wing and the Republican Party's willingness to give that anger a wink and a nod rather than standing up to it.
The conversation revolved around the comments of Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty who spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) last week. Pawlenty compared "big government" Democrats to the conflict between Tiger Woods and his wife Elin.
Conservatives could learn a lot from Tiger Woods' wife Elin, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty said at the Conservative Political Action Conference today. "She said, I've had enough," Pawlenty said. "We should take a page out of her playbook and take a 9-iron and smash the window out of big government."

Pawlenty's reference to physical conflict wasn't a metaphor or an accident. Because it was a theme of his speech.
Pawlenty said conservatives also have a message for liberals: "If you try to take our freedoms, we will fight back."

Pawlenty brought the crowd to their feet warning Democrats that Republicans were "planting the flag on constitutional ground" and that if they try to take away their freedoms "we will fight back."
When Pawlenty was asked by "Meet The Press" host David Gregory whether he expected to be taken seriously when using Tiger's Woods' marital problems as a rallying cry. Pawlenty's response was, "People still enjoy a sense of humor."

David Neiwert at Crooks and Liars cautioned against this "sense of humor" and offered an interesting observation.
But did anyone else notice that this was a particularly violent metaphor, one suggestive of people breaking out windows? It inspires images straight out of Kristallnacht.
When the fringe elements of the right-wing are embraced by more moderate Republican conservatives, the poem of Paster Martin Niemoller comes to mind. There are several versions of this poem, but the message is the same.
First they came for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant.

Then they came for me -
and by that time no one was left to speak up.
What is the message Pawlenty is trying to convey? We must not forget the lessons of history when we are looking at current events. Pawlenty's comments are filled with noxious reminders of what should never be acceptable from a politician.

The message for all Americans is that we must immediately speak out and stand against this rally cry of violence.

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