I’ve been thinking and reading a lot about anger. Not just recently, but for a long time. One of the joys of studying history, I suppose. The current waves of anger and vitriol have me worried that we’re not going to see an end to it until someone–maybe a number of people–are dead. I’m not wishing it on anyone, but it seems to be where we are heading.
Late Tuesday, before the health care reform vote, there was a protest outside of Congresswoman Mary Jo Killroy’s office in Columbus. I’ll let the video below speak for itself (it’s a shorter version of the original posted on the Columbus Dispatch website).
At the beginning of the last century, immigrants and minorities faced violent discrimination and lynchings were common. It was not uncommon to find local politicians, especially in the South, involved in racist activities. The first year that no Blacks were lynched in the US was 1952. That lull lasted until 1955–the year after Brown vs. Topeka. The violence aimed at Civil Rights activists continued through the late 1960s and culminated in the deaths of Martin Luther King, Jr. and others.
Student activism that started with the Civil Rights movement and grew to include protests against the Vietnam War resulted in violent protests at many universities: Berkeley, Wisconsin, Columbia. etc. The protests did not end until the shootings at Kent State and Jackson State in 1970.
Extremists in the US–racists, militias, Skinheads, and others–experienced a resurgence starting in the 1980s. The groups were distinct, but one common thread was an anti-government bent fueled by anger about affirmative action, gun-control, desegregation, taxes, and more. Their numbers and activities grew until 1995 and Timothy McVeigh’s bombing of the Murrah Federal Building. After that, they continued to be a movement that attracted new members but were viewed as fringe elements that were repudiated by mainstream politicians.
But the fringe is once again becoming more mainstream, more a part of the base that must be appealed to for its support, votes, money, and unity. Two examples:
- The Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, started in Arizona to patrol and “secure” the border. The Arizona leaders of the movement voted this week to disband after issuing a “call to arms” that they worried would “attract the wrong people” to Arizona. Other articles discuss the links between the MCDC and Tea Party activists.
- Scott Roeder, who murdered Dr. George Tiller, was interviewed from prison in February and the interview posted on YouTube. In it, Roeder defends his actions. He is supported by Leach and a number of video responses. Operation Rescue and other mainstream anti-abortion groups officially distance themselves from Roeder’s actions.
Angry Americans are being egged on by talk radio, demagogue politicians, and each other. No one will take responsibility for leading or inspiring them. The few people who have turned violent have been labeled as “lunatics” or “lone wolves.” In other words, no one’s responsibility or problem.
Until someone ends up dead.
Well, people have been ending up dead, but I guess they haven’t been the “right” people yet, because the anger is still boiling.
In the past week, Congressman John Lewis (D-GA), was spit at and targeted with racial epithets by Tea Partiers. Yesterday, Bonesparkle posted “Teabagger Jedi Ex Cathedra Journalism: now being practiced in Lynchburg, VA” about an incorrect address being posted for Rep. Tom Perriello’s (D-Va.) (the address posted was for his brother). Well, someone went to the brother’s house and cut his gas line. Bricks are being thrown. Sarah Palin’s PAC is using images of Democrats who voted for healthcare reform with crosshairs on their faces.
Again, no one’s dead yet. But who has to die before we say, “Stop it!”?