Politics of pettiness promote real violence

Don’t like what the other side is doing in America’s ongoing political battles? You can attack them, as so many people are unfortunately doing these days, by demonizing and applying scatological nicknames to those who think differently. And, increasingly it seems, the American way is to resort to violence — from minor to much worse.

Those actions must be halted quickly. Leaders of political parties and ideological organizations of all stripes need to strongly denounce those who engage in violence and those who suggest violent attacks may be appropriate. And people who witness acts of political violence need to report them to authorities.

As a column below notes, some Democrats in Congress have reported threats of violence against them since the passage of the health care bill 10 days ago, along with phone calls, e-mails and letters filled with nasty language. A half-dozen Democratic congressional or party offices — from Anchorage to New York — have reported broken windows in the past week or more.

But the violence is by no means one-sided. On Monday, the FBI arrested a Philadelphia man and charged him with threatening to kill Republican House Minority Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia.

Rep. Jean Schmidt, an Ohio Republican, released a phone message in which a caller accused her of being racist for voting against the health care bill, and expressed hope she would be seriously injured.

On Saturday, participants on the Tea Party Express bus traveling to Democratic Sen. Harry Reid’s hometown of Searchlight, Nev., reported that Reid supporters threw eggs at their bus.

All this comes against the backdrop of the FBI’s raids on a Midwest group that calls itself “Hutaree,” a group that reportedly planned to kill policemen and hoped to foment an uprising against the government.

Despite what some political pundits suggested, the group is far out of the realm of what even the most vitriolic talk radio hosts are preaching. Members had a pseudo-Christian apocalyptic view of the world, in which the U.S. government represented the anti-Christ and it was their duty to kill and start an uprising.

Even so, commentators on both sides of the political divide now tar opponents with vile epithets. People demonize the opposition, use perjoratives and dismissive names to refer to them, then act surprised when people on the other side respond in kind.

Such is what passes for political dialogue in the United States today, and apparently leads some folks to conclude that violence is justified.


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