In our wonderful democracy, citizens have many avenues for expressing anger and dissent with government actions
Threats, violence and vandalism are not on that list, and leaders of both parties, as well as the nation’s political commentators, should take a strong stand to quell this activity across America.
A brick bearing “anti-Obama rhetoric” shattered a floor-to-ceiling window at the Sedgwick County Democratic headquarters in Wichita last weekend. It was just one of several similar incidents across the country, apparently inspired by a former Alabama militia leader who said the action was meant to “get everyone’s attention.”
Since the weekend vote approving health care reform, several members of Congress — and some of their relatives, by mistake — have received hateful, obscene, threat-filled phone and fax messages. In Virginia, vandals cut a propane line at the home of Rep. Tom Perriello’s brother after his address was posted online by activists who apparently mistook it for the home of the congressman who voted in favor of health care reform.
It doesn’t matter what party you’re in or whether you favor or vehemently oppose the health care legislation that was passed last weekend. Threatening the health and welfare of your political opponents is not how Americans should act.
Members of Congress, from both sides of the aisle, have decried the current wave of threats and vandalism. “It is unacceptable in America,” said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who urged angry citizens to work for change through the political system by registering voters and campaigning for candidates. That’s the right way to do it. At the same time, public officials and political commentators need to be aware of the tone of their rhetoric. A war of words is one thing, but they should be careful not to encourage physical violence or destruction of property.
Both Democrats and Republicans are targets of the current activity, but violent expressions of protest are wrong whether they are led by Republicans, Democrats, liberals, conservatives or any splinter group thereof. Lawrence had its own experience with that kind of violence during anti-war demonstrations in the 1960s. It was wrong then, and it’s wrong now.
It’s disturbing to read about the profane, violent threats being received by some members of Congress and their families. Fortunately, no one has been physically injured, but the potential for some unbalanced person to act on one of these threats will continue to grow unless the nation can dial back its violent rage. American leaders don’t have to defend the recently passed health care bill, but they must defend the democratic system that allows us to disagree and work through difficult issues without resorting to violence.