Wednesday, March 31, 2010

From the Crosshairs to the Cross

Frank Rich’s March 27 column dissecting the reactionary Republican resistance to healthcare reform has gone viral. And for good reason − it’s a brilliant essay, laying out the irrationality, hate-mongering, and even outright violence coming from the right wing. From death threats against members of Congress to armed militias in Michigan, it’s an ugly time to be an American.

The desire to find a quick-fix scapegoat for our country’s ills isn’t likely to let up, either, even in the week Christians call holy. For all our supposed enlightenment, the tendencies toward mob mentality and political power plays that characterized Jerusalem two thousand years ago are all too familiar to us.

Sarah Palin and others who pander to white Americans’ basest fears deserve to be called out for their race-baiting, gay-bashing, common good-denying ways, which threaten to pull our country apart. Freedom of speech is a fundamental value, to be sure. But surely it is a misuse of freedom to target political opponents with rifle-site crosshairs on your Facebook page, as Palin is doing.

The connection between violent rhetoric and violent action is too close to make “lock and load” references responsible adult behavior. Just ask the widow of George Tiller, the Kansas doctor murdered by someone influenced by hateful anti-abortion publications. At some point, hate-inciting words become a clear and present danger - even when you claim to be a "soccer mom."

I’m not saying Palin should be jailed, like the socialist leader Eugene Debs was during the First Word War. I know politics is war by other means, and I’m familiar with Clausewitz.

What I’m saying is that there is another way: the way of the cross. The Jesus I follow urged us to love our enemies, not put them in the crosshairs.

The irony is that so many of those uncomfortable with racial and sexual diversity in America call themselves Christians. Thankfully, the singer Todd Snider stands ready, courtesy of You Tube, to offer a glimpse of what it's like on the other side of the cultural barricade.

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