Opinion Pieces


Hate and rhetoric brewing in heated political season August 30, 2012 by Richard Nelson

 
            Tropical Storm Isaac is likely to become a full blown hurricane this week and drench the GOP National Convention and attendees in Tampa Bay. Prediction: it will be more than cloudy with a chance of bad puns from the political class but regardless of where the storm hits, it is a useful metaphor to describe the escalating political fury and fiery rhetoric unleashed in recent weeks.
            A super-PAC is charging Mitt Romney with the death of a cancer patient and Vice-president Joe Biden told a black audience in Virginia that Mitt Romney wants to “put ya’ll back in chains.” Between now and the election just over two months away, expect the charges to escalate. We are entering the silly season after all.
            Much hyperbole can be dismissed out of hand, but some is so outrageous that it moves the silly-meter off the scale and needs to be directly addressed.  Enter Floyd Corkins. According to an FBI affidavit, the 28-year old Corkins walked into the Family Research Council (FRC) lobby in Washington D.C. with a 9mm and 50 rounds of ammo and shouted "I don't like your politics." He opened fire and wounded a security guard who subdued him before he could hurt others. It’s safe to say that the 15 Chick fil-A sandwiches Corkins had in his backpack probably weren’t courtesy lunches he was delivering.
            A few analysts attribute the shooting to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) which labeled FRC as a hate group because of their views on homosexuality and the definition of marriage. SPLC’s website lists hundreds of hate groups in the nation. There are 14 in Kentucky. Yes, they are white supremacists and are hateful in their rhetoric but is it fair to lump groups with moral convictions on human sexual conduct in with Neo-Nazis?
             If you missed the story it’s probably because of the media fixation on reckless comments about rape made by Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin. Romney and other leading Republicans have called on Akin to withdraw from the race, which he won’t. And as much as he’s apologized, his political future may be over.  
            Words matter, especially by politicians and opinion-shapers.Just as important is how the media reports and ferrets out the truth and quite frankly they’ve done a poor job in reporting what motivated the shooting at FRC’s headquarters. Hate can be judged by the words, their intent and the actions that follow.  If that’s the case, then Floyd Corkins, a volunteer at a local Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Center should be charged with a hate crime. But there is no category for hate crimes committed against conservatives, nor should there be. The danger here is that when anyone cavalierly brands another person or group with the hate moniker simply because they disagree with their politics we lose more than the ability to discourse.
            This story has received relatively little media coverage perhaps because it doesn’t fit the mold of those who perpetrate hate crimes.  But it’s a story that could be repeated unless civility is reintroduced into public discourse. Maybe the players on our nation’s biggest political stage could set a better example. Better yet, let’s not wait for politicians to act like grown-ups. Why don’t we take it upon ourselves to elevate respect and tone down the rhetoric that hurts or diminishes another person?  It’s time for a fresh political wind. Maybe Isaac will bring that to the GOP convention. Let’s just hope attendees will bring their umbrellas.



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