August 11, 2009

To My Conservative Friends and Colleagues

Who needs to die before you speak?

We've already had one death arguably attributable to this insanity of refusing to recognize the authority of a duly elected president and Congress. How many more will it take?

Sure, the guy was a raving loon, but there are a lot of people out there right now who are being told insane things and believing them. They believe a man could be elected president without anyone verifying his citizenship. They believe Congress could and would pass a bill that mandates euthanasia. They believe they're about to be rounded up and shipped to gulags or concentration camps for disagreeing with the administration's policies. It doesn't matter that those things are insane. These people have been whipped into a fine state of paranoia.

It's easy to tell yourself you're not like them, that you merely disagree with the changes that are happening. After all, you're not insane, just conservative.

Will that matter when the next person dies over this? Representative David Scott has had a swastika painted on his office sign. Another representative was hung in effigy. Representative Brad Miller received a death threat. Senator Arlen Specter invited people to tell him what they thought about health care reform--held back the police who were concerned about violence and disruption--and still people screamed in his face and called him a tyrant. A man showed up to protest the president's town hall meeting today wearing a gun and carrying a sign that said, "It is time to water the tree of liberty" (referencing Jefferson's "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.").

Those are just some of the politicians who are on the receiving end of violent anger. Fights are breaking out outside these meetings on health care. My husband was accused earlier this week, by someone who should know better, of planning to turn an old friend in for an "incorrect" political position. I can't buy ammunition right now to go target shooting because it's all sold out and has been for months. This whole thing is teetering on the edge. Someone else is going to die soon. Maybe lots of someone elses.

It will be your fault.

"Why?" you ask, "I'm not the one feeding their paranoia." No, you're not, but you're the only people who can stop it.

They're not going to listen to us. We liberals are already traitors and, somehow, simultaneously Nazis and communists. They believe we're going to round them up and put them to sleep. They believe that if they listen to us, they die.

Some of them will listen to you because they know you're on the same side. Some won't listen, exactly, but will find their first reasons to doubt the lies because you speak against them. Some won't listen to anyone but Rush and the rest of talk radio and their friends at Fox.

That's where you need to do your most talking. Talk to the stations and tell them you won't watch or listen while they refuse to speak against the violence. Tell them you can see how they're dividing the country and they have a responsibility to do better. Tell them the same thing I've told you: Unless they speak against it, they who have so much influence, they are complicit in the violence. They condone with their silence.

Then tell their advertisers the same thing. Then the conservative politicians.

Unless you want the violence, you have to tell those in a leadership position to lead their people in a different direction. They represent you, and you haven't argued up to this point that they don't. If they lead us into more violence and death, they are doing it in your name.

If you don't speak now, the next death will be your fault.


Dan J said...

Great post as always, Stephanie. How do we reason with the unreasonable? We "libruls" can say anything we want, and the ultra-conservatives who feast on their daily doses of Limbaugh, Savage, Beck, and O'Reilly will not believe us. I really have to hope that there are a lot more intelligent, reasonable conservatives out there than I actually see evidence of, otherwise I'll really get scared.

Stephanie Zvan said...

They are out there. They're in a very weird position. Their party left them behind in the last election, and they're mostly in favor of the goal of stopping health care reform even if the means are making them uneasy. But they've got to speak up about this.

Anonymous said...

Ah, they don't care. As long as they can cover their crazy paranoid racism with some kind of thin veneer of 'politics', they'll keep doing it. What the hell do they care if PEOPLE die, they're only concerned with cells and souls from what I've seen...

D. C. said...

Good luck.

Bear in mind that I've been pretty conservative my whole life -- growing up with Barry Goldwater as a neighbor might have something to do with it.

So here I am, closer to 60 than to 50, lifelong self-identified conservative, and I find myself labeled as the token leftist radical at work. (And, yeah, my co-workers and boss could Google this comment. Hi, guys!)

If you ain't with 'em, you're agin 'em. It's that simple.

Jason Thibeault said...

This is all scarily related. What we talked about over the last week, with "moderates" not speaking up to check the psychotic element in the religious right, ties in directly with the moderate conservatives not speaking up to check the psychotic elements in their party. It's scary that people like Sarah Palin get political traction spinning falsehoods from whole cloth like the "death panel" bull and she's still considered someone worth listening to.

The Overton Window has swung so far to the right that the liberals that get elected are actually centrists, and the conservatives are batshit insane fascists who accuse anything left of them of being simultaneously fascists and socialists. Peeling away the few remaining right-wingers that aren't already wholly brainwashed is a Sisyphean task. And any attempt at pulling the Overton window back to the left so the crazies aren't in the frame any more, is now viewed by those crazies as an attempt to take away their first-amendment rights, so they of course employ their second.

The bottom of my stomach drops out every time I hear of some new attempt at inciting violence by the radicalized nutter part of the right wing. This is scary serious.

D. C. said...

Jason, this is the sort of chaos that happens when a two-party system runs up against the end-of-life of one of its parties. The centrists won't stay happy in the same party as the leftists, so eventually there will be a mitotic division unless the Republicans manage to pull a split first.

It's ugly because it is a two-party system, set up (despite the intentions of the Founders to have a partyless system of government) as winner-take-all. That keeps minor parties from being viable.

bugbear said...

It's really sad to say, but, the radio stations will never stop broadcasting the worst of the talk show hosts because they are FREE. Limbaugh is distributed almost entirely for free to smaller stations which is a huge savings and allows them to broadcast popular shows without hiring anyone or having to pursue additional advertisers.

Anonymous said...

It's a horrifying state of affairs... Made no less scary by the fact that I know several of the "Obama's a secret Muslim who is going to come to my house and take all my guns and let all the criminals go free and lock up everyone who doesn't support total socialism" people and they're even less stable as a rule than that description makes them sound.

I wish there was something I could say to calm the situation down, but like others have said: they won't listen to me. I'm just a liberal commie socialist hippie.

I wish I could hold higher hopes that this would pass with no more bloodshed, but I just can't bring myself to believe it. The (sometimes literally) violent rejection of any and all dissenting opinions, even from the mostly silent relatively moderate right, leads me to think that this is a problem we'll be dealing with for quite some time.

Frankly, at this point, I'm pretty sure that it's gone so far that any steps in the right direction will make it worse, at least in the short term. I sincerely hope I'm wrong, but it seems a terribly frail hope to me.

Philip H. said...

I think you have hit the proverbial nail on the head. But I would go farther, and say that we need to stay in the fight. Maybe we'll never convince the unconvincable, but we can't let them have the stage to themselves.

Basta said...

Wow, I have to say this is true. I'm a self-identified conservative and registered republican but I find it harder and harder to defend these people. No, I don't think the majority of them have been "sent" and I don't think they're overstepping their 1st amendment rights as long as things DON'T turn violent (though I don't know how often that happens in real life). But they really are radicals slandering the name of people like me. Somebody mentioned a mitotic separation--I hope that's right. I guess I'm more of an Ayn Rand objectivist and if the party splits I hope there's a socially liberal new side. Have your marijuana, your abortion option, your gay marriage. There's nothing wrong with those things. The parties now speak out of both sides of their mouths--but you can't advocate economic freedom without social freedom, and vice-versa.

I think it's just time for everybody to be grownups about the whole affair. People take you more seriously when you're cogent and rational, and if the town hall meetings continue the way they are, the religious right will solidify me and the rest of the real republican party as the terminally apeshit insane party.

Christopher Kane said...

Sure I agree with you that there are some fanatics out there grasping at objects in the mist to find something to justify their beliefs that the President is not legitimate. Also I agree that there are paranoid individuals out there that are purchasing more ammunition than normal. Yes there are isolated acts of violence that are braking out due to the heightened tensions.

I have seen President Bush hung in effigy, angry mob like protesters throw Molotov cocktails through military recruiting office windows, peace sign symbols burned on to an elected official’s lawn. All of these acts committed by liberal groups saying these acts are protected under the Bill of Rights.

With all that is happening is it not both parties at fault? Shouldn’t we raise above all the grade school name calling by both sides and actually talk about the issues? The people of America deserve an open civil dialog with the exchange of ideas and the support of facts.

I’ll close with this question. If both sides don’t open up and listen, don’t stop the name calling, and don’t stop committing violent mob like behavior, are we not all to blame for those who lose their lives to the mayhem we are causing?

Stephanie Zvan said...

Christopher, of course liberals also produce violent idiots. However, I have seen liberal protest leaders get their groups together for chats on how to keep things from going over the top. I have seen people turn in the members of their groups who get out of hand. I have seen liberals stand up and say that the way to make peace does not involve throwing stones or anything else. I've seen (and been one of the) liberals condemning the fringe groups who commit idiocy in the name of environmental or other causes.

I have seen liberals police their own. I'm not seeing any of that here from conservatives. If that doesn't happen, if conservatives stay silent and don't condemn violence while it's being done in their names, it is their names that will rightly be attached to the violence.

Is it such a problem to speak out?

Christopher Kane said...

No, it is not a problem. It should be said that enough is enough. The radical voices are getting louder and louder on both sides of the fence. We all need to speak out against the fringe groups and douse the political flames.

We should all voice our concerns about the direction the country takes, we are lucky to do so. So I do say that those committing criminal acts to push their political ideals, should be dealt with as criminals and their acts unfortunately are the burden of the cause they represent.

So, I am standing up and saying to all the conservative fringe "Stop, listen, communicate and stay rational and respectful"

Stephanie Zvan said...

Thanks, Christopher. That's exactly what I'm asking for. (Of course, if you only say it here, nobody who needs to hear you will.)

Toaster Sunshine said...

Both sides are guilty of sound byte demagoguery, packaging positions and talking points into easily recited lists and mantras then charging them up with heated emotional appeal with the express aim of manipulating the electorate. Nonetheless, I do find that conservatives are more guilty of this in that conservatives can, do, and will continue to assail opponents for being "too intelligent" and "too educated", which quid pro quo encourages the sentiment that intelligence and accuracy are simply dangerous and not to be trusted. As a result, conservatives can shove their messages into the mouths of their accolytes with much less resistance than liberals, whose constituency generally places a higher value upon critical thought.

All this violent rhetoric and bullshit spewing from the conservatives tempts me to abandon mashed potato ballistics and graduate to lead ballistics in the name of self defense.

Nat Blair said...

Christopher Kane said:
I have seen President Bush hung in effigy, angry mob like protesters throw Molotov cocktails through military recruiting office windows, peace sign symbols burned on to an elected official’s lawn. All of these acts committed by liberal groups saying these acts are protected under the Bill of Rights.

With all that is happening is it not both parties at fault?

This kind of garbage moral equivalence drives me batty.

Yes, there are loonies on the left. Real wackos who have done what you describe.

But what is significantly different in the role and response of the party leaders to these sorts of behaviors. Repubs and conservative leaders have stoked their constituents misbeliefs on the birther, Obama death panels, Obama Nazi/Socialist health care issues.

Were there elected Democrat US Reps, Senators, and Governors who stoked the fringe left in a similar way? Or left/progressive movement leaders, with the power to slap down dissenting voices, who did the same? Cause I don't remember any. In fact most mainstream Democrats distanced themselves from those groups.

It ain't the same. No goddamn way.

But honestly, kudos to you for saying enough is enough. We can only hope more conservatives will say the same.

Christopher Kane said...

Response to Nat Blair:

As I said before "committing criminal acts to push their political ideals, should be dealt with as criminals and their acts unfortunately are the burden of the cause they represent." Violence is violence.

My point is violence committed by the left or the right is deplorable, but we all have to look past all that to see what those who are peacefully exercising their rights, what they are trying to say.

DuWayne Brayton said...

Oh give me a fucking break Christopher. I am not a fan of the fucking terrorists on the left, but lefties who actually condone violence are exceptionally rare. This is simply not the case with their counterparts on the right. The right wingnuts are far more violent by nature, than the left wingnuts - hands down. And they are also more likely to purposely engage in violent acts that will actually take or harm human life. As much as I despise fucking terrorists of every stripe, the lefties generally try to avoid harming people.

I am not, btw, a lefty myself. Not particularly liberal even, though I do lean in that direction. Just rather concerned about the violent right wing reactionaries.

And for the record, I have gone to some fair extremes to denounce leftwing violence being engaged in the name of causes I believe in. And you will often hear what prominent lefties there are doing the same when it comes up.

From their counterparts on the right;

is what you get.

Philip H. said...

Well said DuWayne. It . . . gets sand in my shorts . . . that the right screamed bloody murder (literally) when left leaning hooligans were rampaging against Bush's excesses of torture, wireless eavesdropping, extraordinary rendition, an dlying to start a war, but feel ok about doing the same thing when Obama wants to change how well, and at what cost, we deliver healthcare. Not morally equivalent challenges, IMHO - and therefore not entitled to morally equivalent responses.

Kelly McCullough said...

Furthermore, there is simply no comparison between the rhetoric of prominent figures on the right who seem to be actively egging their fellows on to violence and similar figures on the left. A number of places are keeping track of instances of eliminationist rhetoric and it's something that the right does in abundance, see: Rush, Beck, Coulter, O'Reilly, Liddy, etc, etc, etc. Whilst the left, not so much.

Diggitt said...

"Not so much?"
How about
"Not at all!"

Honestly -- people are so scared about being found wrong on one small factoid that they are hedging their bets and suggesting that somewhere out there are herds of leftists just waiting to kill. And these are the leftists' friends. What's wrong with you people?

Please tell me about five acts of murder, performed by someone agreed to be on the left. We apparently agree that the guys are right-wingers who shot up the Holocaust Museum, murdered George Tiller, murdered an Ecuadorian in Patchogue last November, shot up the Knoxville Unitarian Church, and murdered the three Pittsburgh cops earlier this year.

That's just offhand. Please, please, please TELL ME five equivalent acts of violence on the part of U S leftists. I can't think of one. Maybe you cautious souls are keeping track. Is that why you're afraid to admit how bad the violence is?

Thanks, Stephanie, for posting this, and thanks for watching the comments and not letting people get away with these copouts. We should be scared, and we should be making lists of what we're going to do.

It seems we should start by encouraging our friends not to be so mealy-mouthed.

The Lorax said...


While I could be wrong, Im willing to bet the individuals fire bombing scientist's cars, sending death threats, and torching houses in the name of animal welfare are leftists. Similarly the term "eco-terrorists," was developed to refer to right-wingers either.

That being said I just want to correct the assertion that violence is 100:0 right:left, its more accurately 98:2. I bit pedantic but its the scientist in me.

Regardless, Well said Stephanie

Kelly McCullough said...

Diggitt, "not so much" is a midwesternisim that pretty much translates as "not at all." It was not intended as a cautious statement sorry if that wasn't clear to you.

Anonymous said...

Don't paint everyone with the same brush. There are people out there on on both sides of this political debate who take it way too far. Not all conservatives are "raving loons." There are plenty of liberals who have engaged in violent and destructive behavior in the name of their cause. As a people in these United States we should be trying to come together and find common ground. Your "us vs. them" mentality only divides people further apart.

Stephanie Zvan said...

Anonymous, read the post instead of just assuming you know what it says. Then read the comments.

Anonymous said...

I did read the post.

Anonymous said...

My comments are to the original post not the comments.

Stephanie Zvan said...

Then please cite the part of the original post where I'm "paint[ing] everyone with the same brush." Once you're done with that, you can find the answer to the rest of your comment in the comments that preceded yours.

Anonymous said...

I don't know why you are getting so defensive about my interpretation of your writing. I am a free thinking more grounded Liberal who looks to mend differences of opinion instead of opening them further. Besides I'm not about to get involved into a pointless political debate with a nobody named Stephanie.

Stephanie Zvan said...

Thank you. That may be the funniest comment ever posted on my blog.

Jason Thibeault said...

"...with a nobody named Stephanie."

At least we know her name. Slashdot has a name for people like you: "Anonymous Coward". Even if signing up was too much trouble, you could have chosen the Name/URL choice.

Oh, and some reading comprehension skills might help.

DuWayne Brayton said...

Hi Anon, just wanted to know where exactly Steph was painting everyone with a broad brush. While we are all for criticism, around these parts there is a general desire to see exactly why such criticism was justified.

And ironic as my saying this might be, it is also useful to avoid nasty comments about one's person. Unless you're me and everyone already knows you're a big blue meany and an asshole to boot....

Mike Haubrich, FCD said...

I am just trying to wrap my head about someone who doesn't even bother to make up a pseudonym referring to a "nobody named Stephanie."

I also need to know how you go about this:

I am a free thinking more grounded Liberal who looks to mend differences of opinion instead of opening them further

with people who would rather show their handguns at rally and carry signs that refer to the "blood of tyrants."

You wouldn't be an accommodationist, would you? Are you, perhaps, an appeaser?