Saturday, October 11, 2008

They Have Sown the Wind

For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind: it hath no stalk; the bud shall yield no meal: if so be it yield, the strangers shall swallow it up. Hosea 8:7 (KJV)

A stuffed monkey doll with an Obama sticker on the forehead-CBS News reports that's what one McCain supporter felt at liberty to show off at a rally this morning in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, where Sarah Palin was speaking. Initially, other supporters grinned as he showed off the monkey, but when the man realized a video camera was trained on him, he quickly ripped the sticker from the toy and gave the monkey to a random child in the crowd. This offensive display happened the day after John McCain finally either found his soul or checked his polls and began to try to calm the crowds that have become decidedly more like lynch mobs since Sarah Palin began repeatedly accusing Obama of "palling around with terrorists" and pressing the message: "We don't know who Obama really is, but what we do know is that he's not like us." It's easier to hate someone you believe is not like you. It's easier to fear someone you believe is not like you. The belief that the someone or something is not like us, is dangerous, and should be feared facilitates objectification that frees a mob, fueled by anger and fear, to act. This week, all of three messages-(1) he is not like us; (2) he is dangerous, and (3) he should be feared-have been front and center in the messages of Palin, McCain and their surrogates even as the crowds became more and more agitated. Ultimately, John McCain took a microphone from a women who was convinced Obama was "Arab" and was forced to defend his opponent to the very unhappy crowd.

Palin and McCain did not have to create this anger, these misconceptions about Obama. Palin simply planted her Naughty Monkey Double Dare pumps on the fire ant bed that has been growing on the Internet for over a year. And, despite what has happened, and McCain's desire to now reign in the hatred, today, Palin went after Obama on abortion, yet another emotional issue that has a history of inspiring violence. And, she went further than just saying he favored choice (he does), further even than saying he is pro-abortion (he is not). Palin cobbled together words and votes taken out of context and made the case that Barack Obama sees babies as a "punishment" and favors withholding medical care from babies, even special needs babies, born alive. The message? Obama hates babies. And that's not like us.

I do not believe that either John McCain or Sarah Palin want harm to come to Barack Obama. Palin, for her part, is reading what McCain's folks put in front of her. But if he is shocked, either by the reaction of the crowds or the response of civil right heroes like Congressman John Lewis, then it is, again, McCain's judgement that is in question.

There is a profound disconnect between the person I believe John McCain to be-a good and honest man who is a true American hero-and the campaign he fails to control. Every day ads run that advance the theme that Obama is not like us, every day campaign surrogates invoke Obama's middle name as if it is a slur, and every day the talking heads are unleashed to say what the candidate dare not, that dangerous disconnect continues and McCain's own legacy is threatened. This is no doubt a perilous moment in history. We are at war, and just as those buildings collapsed on 9/11, we are watching as our economy struggles to stand. One of these two men will be President in January, and the first task, for whoever is elected, will be to become a President for all of us, especially those who did not vote for them. For either McCain or Obama to spend the next three weeks trying to convince the electorate that the other is dangerous, cannot be trusted and is not like us does not serve that mission or this nation well.


Wes said...

Amen and amen.


Amy Morton said...

Perhaps, the events of the last few days will put an end to this, at least on an 'offical' basis, but the electorate in already infected. I got an email this morning from a democratic county party chair in Georgia who got a rat's severed head in her meal after getting a tongue lashing from the republican owner alleging that she was personally registering "illegals" to vote. Then she attended Sunday services only to hear her pastor proclaim that a "muslim was running for president." The ignorance, and the hatred seem without bounds. I have to hope that that represents the worst of us, and that there are more people who denounce such things than practice them.

Amy Morton said...

From Michael Jablonski:

Our theme should be that this is an opportunity for McCain to show that he is a leader. The test is whether he completely and utterly shuts down scurrilous activity among his supporters. He can condemn them and he can distance himself from them but the test is whether he can stop them. How can he lead a nation if he can’t lead his own people?

Tina said...

Here's my prediction for the third debate. McCain will portray himself as the feisty fighter and Obama will be serious and diplomatic. No game-changer....
Also I will be surprised if the nationwide audience is as large as it was for previous debates. The second debate was, I assume, planned to give McCain the "town hall" setting that he wanted, but
instead the format turned out to be awkward and stagey -- and some say the result was just a little boring.