Last week shooting in mayhem at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington and the growing concern about “supremacists rage” reminded me of several blogs I wrote and articles we published a year ago during the Obama’s election campaign. A lof of water passed under the bridge since than, but re -reading it I felt that that the issues I sensed than are as relevant today. Reading Frank Rich : “The Obama Haters’ Silent Enablers”(http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/14/opinion/14rich.html) convinced me that going back to the election campaign will not be a nostalgic walk down memory lane but looking again at the forces in our society that ferment “rage” rather than fight it.
This is is what I wrote on 10/18/2008
More than a year ago, and before the primaries kicked off, Beliefnet.com, a Web site dedicated to “inspiration, spirituality, and faith,” interviewed John McCain. The presidential hopeful claimed that the Constitution of the United States established a “Christian Nation,” a statement that caught my attention. As an avowed secularist, I rarely think about my “Jewishness.” Reading that statement was one of the few moments I did. I was reminded of McCain’s statement several times, the first while on the road working on my current documentary, Jesus Politics: The Bible & The Ballot (www.jesuspoliticsthemovie.com). We were filming some Evangelical activists who supported Mike Huckabee. It was primary day in Florida and the group was saying a prayer before fanning out to the streets to wave banners, distribute leaflets, and urge passers by to vote. “This used to be a Christian Nation,” said the man leading the prayer. “It used to be that you could not run for office unless your were a Christian.” His wife referred to Obama as “a Muslim.” I again thought of McCain’s statement watching the Al Jazeera English news report we feature this week on http://www.Executionchronicles.org. “It is a Christian Nation, ” said one agitated woman. “Obama is a Muslim,” another one said, “he befriends terrorists.” A young Obama supporter holding a sign for the Democratic candidate on the side of a road as a convoy of cars inched toward a Sarah Palin rally, expressed fear that “they will hurt Obama.” Thus the connection was established: “A Christian Nation” versus “a Muslim” Obama “who befriends terrorists.” More than a year has passed between McCain’s interview and Palin’s rally in rural Ohio. For me, this extraordinary year is symptomatic not only of the threat in this country to Senator Obama, but also to the very fabric of our society. John McCain knows very well that the Constitution never established the nation as a Christian one. Even the reference to God (never to a specific religion) was hotly debated among the Founding Fathers. Yes the majority in America has always been Christian, but the Constitution and the letters and documents of the Founding Fathers went to great lengths to ensure that this nation does not endorse one religion over another…. I spent more than five weeks and 4000 miles on the road filming Jesus Politics. Among the many things I learned was that the majority of divisive religious issues we’ve come to associate with the Christian Right were not raised by devout believers, but by the manipulations of conservative political activists, who are neither necessarily religious nor devout. Throughout American history, political assassinations were attributed to “deranged”, ” lone individuals”. Rarely if ever the socio political nature of the act and its context is discussed.”
Frank Rich in his column on Sunday June 14th quotes the comments of Shepard Smith FOX TV Anchorman on the murder of Dr. George Tiller who performed late term abortion in his clinic in Wichita KS until he was gunned down May 31st.
“If you’re one who believes that abortion is murder, at what point do you go out and kill someone who’s performing abortions?” An answer, he said, was provided by Dr. George Tiller’s killer. He went on: “If you are one who believes these sorts of things about the president of the United States …” He left the rest of that chilling sentence unsaid.These are extraordinary words to hear on Fox. The network’s highest-rated star, Bill O’Reilly, had assailed Tiller, calling him “Tiller the baby killer” and likening him to the Nazis, on 29 of his shows before the doctor was murdered at his church in Kansas
In October last year reporter Gini Sikes wrote in an In Depth article for us.:
It’s comforting to dismiss verbal expressions of violence as the ranting of a few fringe individuals. Sadly, however, the world knows it only takes one who believes the mainstream has validated his thinking to turn harmful words into deadly action. After the 1995 assassination of Israel Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin at a peace rally in Tel Avi’s Kings of Israel Square, hundreds of articles and reports examined the incendiary atmosphere before the murder.
The road to Rabin’s assassination began as it usually does in the margins of society. Extreme right-wing groups condemned Rabin’s role in the Oslo Peace Accords with Yassar Arafat as a supreme betrayal, giving holy land to terrorists. Posters depicting Rabin as a Nazi, or effigies of him in SS uniform, appeared at rallies for “mainstream” politicians, among them Benjamin Nethanyu and Ariel Sharon, who ignored cries of “traitor!” Such charges seeped into the mainstream discussion and media. After Rabin’s death, journalists, government officials and others pondered whether they shared in the creation of an environment that allowed Rabin’s killer–who told the court Rabin wanted to “give our country to the Arabs” – to believe that his radical thinking was legitimized because it wasn’t condemned.
Words do matter and until hate talk or rationalization of violence will not be eradicated from our political and social spheres the next “lone gunner” will reappear. The question is not if but when .