Compared to US right-wingers, even our screechiest conservatives are a wimpy lot. American right-wingers, like their Canadian cousins, aren't happy with dissent, but they're not content to confine themselves to insults and clichés. They don't want to debate the people who disagree with their primitive politics: instead, they call for their literal extermination.
Yesterday two Unitarians were shot to death in their church by a man who had clearly been paying attention--the latest victims of the American Right's bloody crusade.
Ann Coulter and her merry band of lunatics have been joking about killing liberals for years now. "Joking?" That's the alibi they always trot out when someone calls them on their incitement to decapitate, poison, burn, hang, gas or otherwise dispatch their political opponents and reporters they dislike. It's time, says one popular wingnut, for a "godly fumigation." And somehow I don't think he was cracking wise.
But we leftists are just too earnest. We take things so literally. We can't take a joke. We don't get it. Right?
On the contrary, we get it all right, even without the fatal wounds. From the Oklahoma bombing (Ann Coulter's "only regret" was that it hadn't happened to the New York Times building) to the church murders by a devoted fan of deranged loudmouths Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly and Michael "kill 100 million of them" Savage, there is blood on the hands of America's conservatives, and it doesn't get washed off by bogus appeals to our sense of humour.
Far too many on the Right (with a few honourable exceptions) are pathologically obsessed with death, with hurting and killing other people. Whether it's capital punishment, endless wars, waterboarding, easy access to handguns, knee-jerk defences of police brutality and sadistic, racist southern sheriffs, or shooting abortion doctors, they lap it up and howl for more. And in the US they take it that extra mile: they would literally rather have their opponents tortured and/or killed than discuss the issues.
Sado-politics is the name of that game, and it's just claimed two more innocent lives. The knuckle-dragging yahoos whose words incited the killings are the folks who, in ages past, packed a lunch and went to watch the public floggings and executions. (Think I'm kidding?) Now, from the safe perch that the media and other bully pulpits afford them, they can communicate their insanity to the masses. And it's obviously working.
Killing those with whom you disagree is part of the American bumper-sticker culture now. "Warning: driver will shoot liberals." Here's Rush Limbaugh, playing the moderate: "I tell people don't kill all the liberals. Leave enough so we can have two on every campus - living fossils - so we will never forget what these people stood for." (Denver Post, 12/29/1995) Here's Senator Phil Gramm: "We're going to keep building the party until we're hunting Democrats with dogs." Even families of the targets aren't safe: the National Review's John Derbyshire has called aloud for Chelsea Clinton to be killed. (And the National Review, shall we say, attracts an interesting crowd.)
It's too bad these lynch-mob leaders can't be rounded up by folks in white suits with giant butterfly nets, certified and treated with sympathy and concern at a laughing academy where their fellow patients will get their jokes, guaranteed, and tell a few themselves. But in the Land of the Free they're still at large, popular and powerful, recruiting their legions of robotized killers, making their country, and the world, unsafe for democracy and civil discourse.
Here at home we do have our own jokers--but, for now at least, they're nowhere near the mainstream. Let's do what we can to keep it that way. Because our lives may quite literally depend upon it.