Wednesday, March 25, 2009

It's All Fun and Games Until Someone Gets Hurt...

Last weekend on a rightwing talk radio program Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) declared herself a foreign correspondent, behind enemy lines, hoping to keep her constituents "armed and dangerous" against the impending "energy tax," as she refers to the proposal of industrial cap-and-trade carbon emissions regulations. Clearly, as Bachmann's spokesperson explained, the Representative was speaking metaphorically. But there is a pattern of violent metaphor developing in the rhetoric of the minority party's leadership.

Last month, Sean Hannity's website featured a users' poll discussing the best ways to violently overthrow the government, given the choices of military coup, armed rebellion or war of secession. Now a reasonable interpretation is that this is all just fun and games. But if we stop to consider the size and tempramental diversity of their audiences, the proliferation of firearms and the passions animating the margins of our politcal discourse, it is not beyond the range of possibilities that individuals and/or groups will eventually act out these goofy fantasies with violence.

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) reports a rise in the organization of active hate groups in the United States from 888 in 2007 to 926 in 2008. Americans are no strangers to our own brand of modern terrorism, from the anti-government militias that produced Terry Nichols and Timothy McVeigh who slaughtered 168 people with a truck bomb at the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, to racist pseudo-religions like the World Church of the Creator that produced Benjamin Smith who murdered Northwestern basketball coach Ricky Birdsong and shot up ten other people in a shooting spree from a north side Chicago Jewish neighborhood to rural Indiana.

Not long after the inauguration of President Barack Obama, National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) had a wild idea. On Friday, January 30, at the House Republican retreat at the Homestead Resort in Hot Springs, Virginia, Rep. Sessions said that Republican legislators ought to start thinking of themselves as "insurgents." Spurred on by the angry debate over the finer points of the economic stimulus bill, Sessions went even deeper into his quest for a GOP structural model telling editors of National Journal's blog Hotline, "Insurgency, we understand perhaps a little bit more because of the Taliban. And that is that they went about systematically understanding how to disrupt and change a person's entire processes."

Pressed for clarification, Rep. Sessions clarified, "I simply said one can see that there's a model out there for insurgency."

I admit to thinking it's clever, if even a little bit hyperbolic, to draw comparisons between the Republican Party and Hezbollah. The self-righteous faith and aggressive dogma shared by both Lebanon's "Party of God" and our own GOP remain something of an open invitation to comparison. Both parties tend to elevate religious dogma over civil law and both parties tend to indulge their militant nature, but only Hezbollah clearly did not care who got hurt. Reps. Bachmann and Sessions, however, wander carelessly from their public responsibilities the more comfortable they get with their metaphors. And their colleagues and constituents ought to say so now.

Meanwhile, Blackwater Worldwide, the private security firm of Nisour Square massacre fame has rebranded itself as Xe, and is still trying to open a training camp in Illinois.

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