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Archive for September, 2009

The Incendiary Rhetoric of the GOP

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

As a regular reader and active participant over at Huffington Post, I have become increasingly concerned about the dangerous and hateful rhetoric that has been coming from the far right and conservative media pundits.  My fear is that - as Nancy Pelosi recently warned - such discourse could spill over into violence.

It might already be happening.  Recently, ultra-conservative nut job (I honestly could not think of - or bear to give her - a more tactful moniker) Republican Michele Bachmann, a Congresswoman and former Minnesota Senator, went on another of her infamous warpaths; this time taking on the U.S. Census, which will be sent out to households across America in 2010.

First, however, a little background.  Congresswoman Bachmann became a household name when, in October 2008, she accused then Presidential nominee, Barack Obama, of being "anti-American" (and later denying she had done so, even though her original statements were from a live video-taped interview for Hardball with Chris Matthews on MSNBC).  She went on to suggest that the entire Congress should be investigated to find out who was "pro-American" and who was "anti-American".

Pertinent to that interview, was Matthews's later discussion on the show with co-editor of The Nation, Katrina vanden Heuvel, who stated:

"I think what we just heard was a Congresswoman channeling Joe McCarthy... There is an... extremism unleashed in this nation which you just heard on this program, which could lead to violence, and hatred, and toxicity, and against the backdrop of the great depression we're living through...could lead, and I don't use this word lightly, to a kind of American fascism which is against the great values of this nation and which people like that are fomenting."

Vanden Huevel's quote would prove, as we will soon see, to be prophetic.

Later, the radical Congresswoman went on WWTC 1280 AM radio on March 21, 2009 inciting her Minnesota constituents to be "armed and dangerous" when it came to a proposed energy tax because, as she put it, "we need to fight back" while also reminding listeners that "having a revolution every now and then is a good thing."

On June 17, 2009, Bachmann gave an interview to The Washington Times wherein she expressed her concerns about the 2010 U.S. Census and indicated she will fill out - if anything - only the number of people in her household on her census form.  She discussed her fears that the information given would be "abused" and used as collection-collecting by ACORN, and went on to say that the current census "asks too many questions" and that those questions were "very intricate, very personal".  In a June 25 interview with Glenn Beck on The Glenn Beck Show, she went even further, stating:

"Here's the other thing that will happen.  From history, the United States government, between 1942 to 1947 passed the 2nd War Powers Act.  They used the U.S. Census information to round up the Japanese and put them in the internment camps.  Americans were told that they wouldn't have their information used against them; they did."

Then, on August 31, at an Independent Institute fundraiser in Denver, Colorado she told a cheering crowd that health care reform had the ability to "destroy this country forever".  She then instructed the crowd to ban together against reform with these choice words:

"What we have to do today is make a covenant, to slit our wrists, be blood brothers on this thing. This will not pass. We will do whatever it takes to make sure this doesn't pass."

In light of the current atmosphere in and around Washington, scaring the ignorant masses is in no one's best interest these days, but Bachmann seems all too eager to be playing that dangerous game.  Insinuating that the census will be used to "round up Americans" like was done to the Japanese during WWII is nothing if not incendiary, and it feeds fuel to the fire that is the growing discontent and fear of change among certain members of the American public.  The same ones that have caused ammunition sales to go through the roof - because they believe (though there is nothing to base it on) that Obama is going to take away their right to bear arms.

From the "birthers" - individuals from the American pubic right up to high-ranking politicians who insist that Barack Obama's claim to the presidency is false because they believe he is not a natural-born citizen - to the constant insinuations that Obama is an America-hating Nazi Marxist trying to destroy the country and rebuild it into a socialist nightmare, all before he, then, takes over the entire world and establishes the New World Order, there is a visceral backlash against anything Obama says or proposes.  He has been called everything from the Anti-Christ to Hitler (a snub dropped often by Rush Limbaugh) and though negativity and criticism are nothing new for any President, the vitriol that is constantly being thrown at President Obama is unequivocally unprecedented.

Some of it is grounded in racism, but also, a great deal of it is based on the fear of change.  Playing to the base fear and ignorance of a large population of the United States, these elected officials and media pundits - many of whom have stated they hope to see Obama's presidency "fail", regardless of what that might mean for the citizens of America - are quick to use people's prejudices to rally them to their causes and in their crusade to destroy President Obama at all costs.  Unfortunately, they don't have to push too hard for many Americans to get riled up wherein Obama is concerned.

The root of much of this bigotry is the fear of the ominous "they"; the "others" who are not like us - be that difference in skin color, culture, religious affiliation, what have you.  This idea that our country belongs to one set group or adheres to a particular set of ideals that is being deviated from and must be returned to is simply ignorant, vile, and undemocratic.  When they talk about "our country", they seem to forget that America does not belong to the white man exclusively. It is a melting pot - it always has been - and if certain groups are gaining a stronger foothold in government or high positions, it is no more than natural progression. No one is going to, or can, "take over our country" for the simple fact that it is our country just as it stands; a vast conglomeration of different races, religions, and creeds. Believing that the country belongs to one group - race or religion or any other tribe - is simply skewed thinking.  And it is dangerous.

Yet "taking our country back" is a popular theme, as proven by the recent How To Take Back America Conference in St. Louis on September 21.  It was there that Congressman Trent Franks of Arizona's 2nd District, threw out this gem:

"Obama's first act as president of any consequence, in the middle of a financial meltdown, was to send taxpayers' money overseas to pay for the killing of unborn children in other countries.  Now, I got to tell you, if a president will do that, there's almost nothing that you should be surprised at after that. We shouldn't be shocked that he does all these other insane things. A president that has lost his way that badly, that has no ability to see the image of God in these little fellow human beings, if he can't do that right, then he has no place in any station of government and we need to realize that he is an enemy of humanity."

What is sad is that this kind of rhetoric is becoming commonplace.

Freedom of speech allows morons like this senator to express his ignorant and blatantly presumptuous ideas, but how far can someone go when not only insulting the President of the United States, but portraying him as an enemy of certain values and of humanity itself? Such histrionics are dangerous in that they give people already afraid of the obvious differences in this President from all that came before him an excuse to act on violent tendencies.

Speaking of which, we return to Michele Bachmann.  In early September, a part-time census worker, William Sparkman, was found dead near a rural cemetery in Clay County, Kentucky.  Displayed to look as if he had been hung (though his body was in contact with the ground) and said to have died of asphyxiation, the 51 year-old substitute teacher had the word "fed" scrawled on his chest.  Though his death has been ruled yet neither suicide or homicide, the FBI have been called in on the possibility that Sparkman was killed because of his census-taking work.

The natural inclination was that Sparkman was killed, and "fed" written on his body, in protest over the census.  Not such a far jump, when you remember the words of Congresswoman Bachmann.  Though she did not tell people to be "armed and dangerous" over the census itself, it can be argued that she has incited fear and anger in those already fearful and angry that the federal government, presided over by President Obama, is out to take over their country, destroy their freedoms, etc..  Bachmann has accused the President of creating indoctrination camps to "re-educate youth" to work for the government and compelled people to "rise up" over the supposed tyrannical rule of our President.  She has even accused the Presidency of "reaching down the throat and ripping the guts out of freedom".

William Sparkman may or may not have been killed because some ignorant bigot was riled up or inspired by the powerfully dangerous rhetoric of Michele Bachmann or those in her hate and fear-mongering camp.  The point, however, is that whether Sparkman is the first, he most assuredly will not be the last.  Assassination concerns, those actively looked into by the Secret Service, are at an all-time high.  Recently, a Facebook poll titled "Should Obama Be Killed?" was removed from the site.  The incendiary and dangerous rhetoric of the GOP and conservative media pundits is not completely to blame, but they certainly are guilty of fanning the flames.

People like Michele Bachmann (such as Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Trent Franks, etc.) spreading this hateful rhetoric and these dangerous words incite those that are already unhinged and scared of "losing their country". Telling people to be armed and dangerous is not idle wordplay. They either do not realize (or do not care) that words have extreme power - or perhaps, even more terribly, they know that they do.

Words can heal and hurt, build-up and destroy. They can change a person's life or take it down a dark path. Words are not random, jumbled letters with no meaning or merit; every day people take to heart what they read and hear and decide whether or not to act on it.  These individuals are quick to speak out rashly, then step back - surprised - when people act on the words they have spoken. They want to remain blameless, but, the fact is, they are anything but. Anyone who has a public office or a place to speak out to others should be careful of what they say and how they say it. The reckless speeches by these ignorant, vile people have caused violence to be committed and this will continue to happen as long as we allow them that platform. The power of words to incite tangible action is either being ignored by these politicians, or being exploited for that very purpose. Either way, it is time to start holding them accountable.

Tweek! Twits for the Week of 2009-09-27

Sunday, September 27th, 2009

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Helping Matt

Monday, September 21st, 2009

I am writing here today because I was notified of a very sad situation and I thought some of you here might be willing or able to help...even if it is just a small donation of $5.

Live Oak Manor Volunteer Fireman, Matthew Cervini, Sr. of Waggaman, Louisiana is losing his two-year battle with Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma.  He is only 34 years-old and will be leaving behind a wife and three young children.

A small business owner who was affected by the Hurricane Katrina, he could not afford health insurance.  Due to the insurmountable costs of his treatment, his wife has found she will be unable to afford to bury her husband.  "I have no money for burial or a place to lay him to rest," Chanda Cervini has said.

You can learn more about Matt, his family, and his battle with cancer at http://helpingmatt.com/.

Garden of Memories Funeral Home & Cemetery in Metairie, Louisiana has assisted with the casket, place of rest, and FULL funeral services at a reduced cost with an agreement that expenses would be paid within 60 days of services.

Live Oak Manor Volunteer Fire Department has set up a donation account in the name of Matthew Cervini, Sr; Account # 69750.

Cash or check donations may be brought in to Credit Union Service Center, Nationwide.  You can locate one of the over 3,800 Credit Union Service Centers online at http://cuservicecenter.com/

Donations may also be mailed to:
Live Oak Manor Volunteer Fire Department
F/B/O Matthew Cervini, Sr.
404 Azalea Drive
Waggaman, LA 70094

The only way the Credit Unions will accept checks is if they are written as the following examples on the "Payable to" line:

Live Oak Manor Volunteer Fire Department FBO Matthew Cervini, Sr.
OR
LOMVFD FBO Matthew Cervini, Sr.

You may also donate via PayPal by visiting http://helpingmatt.com/

Questions or concerns may be addressed to Assistant Fire Chief, Eric Bacon, at asstchief730@aol.com.  The office number of the fire department is (504) 431-7092, and they can be reached via fax at (504) 431-7712.

Donations For Family Assistance

With all of the horrors this family has had to face, they are also - due to the cancer - in serious financial crisis.  They have sold a car, had their home foreclosed on, and now Chanda has been laid off from work.   Even after Matt's nightmare ends, it will be a new chapter for wife, Chanda, and their three young children, Alaura, Matthew, & Gia.  Matt's illness struck this young family wholly unprepared for such a devastating medical expense.  With no health insurance, Matt's treatment for the last two years has put an enormous financial burden on Chanda, who was also laid off from her job in March 2009.  Any donations that you send may also help this young mother to begin rebuilding her life.  Please do what you can to help this family!

Thank you so much for any help you may be able to offer, even if it is only in the form of prayers for this young man and his family.

Tweek! Twits for the Week of 2009-09-20

Sunday, September 20th, 2009

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Monday, September 14th, 2009

Patrick Swayze & Wife Dancing At World Music Awards 1994

Just a thought, but I totally think they should show this on "So You Think You Can Dance" as a tribute to one of our time's greatest dancers, Patrick Swayze.

Amazing seeing he and his wife - married 33 years - dancing together!

Sunday, September 6th, 2009

Bill Moyers "Rage on the Radio"

As always, Bill Moyers gets right to the heart of the matter. The rhetoric on most far right talk radio today is definitely dangerous, and though they claim they do not endorse vigilantism or violence, there is no denying that they incite it.

Jaycee’s Long Road Home

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009

Back in January 2007, I wrote a post asking the press and ignorant people to Leave Shawn Hornbeck Alone.  Sadly, I am here again, about to make the same impassioned plea for beleagured Jaycee Lee Dugard.

Unless you have been living under a rock for the last week, you know that Jaycee was the 11 year-old girl snatched near her South Lake Tahoe, CA home 18 long years ago by sex offender and all-around nut-job, Phillip Garrido, and his automaton wife, Nancy Garrido.  Phillip forced Jaycee to live in a "compound" hidden in his backyard that consisted of tents and lean-tos.  He raped the little girl, and she gave birth to two daughters - now 15 and 11 - in those squalid conditions.  None of them have ever been to a doctor and most people have said they are ashen pale and act like robots, bright blue eyes just staring listlessly.  The children, Starlet and Angel, have never been schooled and Garrido proudly announced they were "raised right" with no television - and no link to the outside world; their lives have been completely sheltered.

Carl Probyn, Jaycee's stepfather, who witnessed the abduction and was considered a suspect in early investigations, told the media that Jaycee - once reunited with her mother, expressed shame and guilt about "bonding" with Garrido.  She shouldn't - as it would be, as often is in these cases of long-term kidnappings, a classic case of Stockholm Syndrome.  What is truly sad is that there are people out there - many people - who feel that Jaycee did something wrong in not attempting to "escape" her attacker's clutches sooner.  Blaming Jaycee is absolutely putting blame in the wrong place - it lies squarely with the Garridos and nowhere else.  Identifying with, and even becoming close to, your attacker is common in hostage situations.  Jaycee was just an 11 year-old girl; the terror she must have felt being kidnapped and raped by this man we cannot even begin to comprehend.  We do not know what he did to her, or how he punished her if she disobeyed him or tried to escape or scream for help.  We do not know what her mind went through it or how it had to adapt to cope and survive.

We can't say, "Well, I would have tried to escape," because we can never put ourselves in such a horrible situation.  We do not know what it is like to suffer through something so traumatic and terrifying; especially to the mind of a scared and sexually-abused child.  We have no right to judge Jaycee.  All of our condemnations and indignation should be at Phillip Garrido and his weak-willed wife who did nothing to stop him or report his actions (though she, too, was obviously a victim of some sort to this manipulative madman).  If you have ire, direct it at the one person who deserves it - Phillip Garrido.  Jaycee Lee Dugard is completely innocent of any wrong-doing and to say she "preferred it there" or "didn't want to be found" or any of the other ignorant, ridiculous comments I have heard people make (the same type of comments that were made about Shawn Hornbeck) is nothing short of outrageous.  This young woman is about to start on a long road of healing, and she does not need to hear stories in the media - or people like Bill Reilly who claimed Hornbeck preferred living with his captor - accusing her of doing anything wrong.  She didn't.  The psychological nightmare that caused her to bond with her captor was one borne of survival instincts.  Until you can walk a mile in her shoes, do not judge her.