Incendiary politics

I don’t know if this has filtered out of the blogosphere and into the traditional media, but there have been some pretty ugly things going on at the various Republican rallies.

–    In one incident, John McCain asks the audience, “Who is Barack Obama?” The reply comes back from the crowd – “Terrorist!”
–    At a Palin rally, as she accuses Obama of ‘palling around with domestic terrorists’ ( referencing Bill Ayers) a voice in the crowd shouts, “Kill him.” Unclear whether the directive is against Ayers or Obama.
–    Today at yet another rally there are references to “hooligans like Obama and (speaker) Pelosi. McCain pauses, then says, “I think you may be right.”

Politics is, has been and will be a dirty game. Not even the founding fathers of the United States were good role models for clean campaigning. Thomas Jefferson hired a writer named James Callender to attack President Adams who wrote that John Adams was “a hideous hermaphroditical character which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.”

Even Harry Truman is supposed to have said as he campaigned for Kennedy, “If you vote for Nixon, you’re going to hell!”

This year’s mudslinging seems positively tame compared to the outrageous rhetoric of elections past. Nevertheless, a cold shiver is going down my spine. Maybe it’s because I am an immigrant and a minority in this country. A scenario comes unbidden to mind of November 5th, when the sensible voters of this amazing country may have voted President Obama into office. Will the crazy crowds, whipped up to frenzy these last few weeks, have collective amnesia about the middle name “Hussein” that is being bandied around at every single public event? Or will mosques and gurudwaras( nobody ever said these crackpots were smart!) have to be on high alert?

It is not surprising that there are elements like these in civilized society; that is to be expected. What is disappointing is that the veneer of civilization is so thin.

What is disappointing is that politicians, whose job is to lead the country through troubled times, are not even trying to pour oil on the troubled waters. I certainly don’t blame McCain or Palin for the behavior of one or two nutcases at their events. But there is every evidence that they heard what was being said, and instead of elevating the level of discourse, kept quiet or agreed with the out-of-control elements in their base. That is sad and not a little shameful. Their tacit approval of these tactics may yet win them the election, but it will be a pyrrhic victory that will be celebrated in the shambles of a once-proud and great country.

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