A guest editorial by Jeff Rotkoff
“Somebody asked me this morning, they said, you really believe that there’s going to be trouble in the future. And I said, if this country starts to spiral out of control…before America allows a country to become a totalitarian country…There will be parts of the country that will rise up. And they said, where’s that going to come from? And I said Texas, it’s going to come from Texas.” – Glenn Beck, March 3, 2009
Though it may be short-lived, perhaps the only laudable outcome of last week’s stomach-curdling assassination attempt on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords – and corresponding murder of six innocent bystanders and wounding of a dozen more – has been a general agreement in the punditry and political class that maybe, just maybe, America’s political rhetoric could stand to be toned down a bit.
Personally, I reject the notion that both sides of the political spectrum are guilty of the kind of violent, anti-government rhetoric that seems so disgusting after Jared Lee Loughner’s Arizona killing spree. “Don’t retreat, instead — RELOAD” was a Sarah Palin tweet. “Second amendment solutions” were suggested by Sharon Angle. Michelle Bachman has wished for an “armed and dangerous” electorate. And Stephen Broden refused to rule out violent overthrow of the federal government. All are Republicans.
But while we’re on the topic of rhetoric, I’d like to submit another term for inclusion on the list of crazy-political-exaggerations-that-get-tossed-around-too-much-and-maybe-we-oughta-lay-off-for-a-bit.
This week, I spent an hour hanging around perhaps one hundred or so Tea Party-loving Texans who had come to their Capitol to express concerns that a man who had worked for John Tower, Ronald Regan and George H.W. Bush is somehow not conservative enough to serve as Speaker in the new Texas House Republican super-majority. Listening to their conversations, the word I heard repeated time and again was “tyranny.”
One gentleman in particular engaged in an extended soliloquy on term limits as a defense against the tyranny of big government. Some quick (read: lazy) web research shows that there are plenty of folks out there who feel pretty comfortable throwing around the “t-word” when talking about the current President of the United States. Conservative commentator David Limbaugh has cited the Obama Administration’s use of recess appointments, and support of the International Monetary Fund, as evidence of tyranny. Virginia Thomas, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s *better* half, is reportedly the founder Liberty Central, an organization dedicated to fighting the “tyranny” of President Obama and other Democrats, and Judge Roy Moore, of the Foundation for Moral Law, has compared the President to the tyrant King George.
Really? Tyranny? Try telling that to the 200 senior officials in North Korea who are reported to have been killed or kidnapped in that country as part of a December political purge. Or maybe to anyone in Iraq who disagreed with Saddam Hussein or thought he looked funny in those fur hats from, say, 1992 to 2003. Oh wait, you can’t – they’re all dead. And I guess those kids at Tiananmen Square had it easy.
Wanna see real tyranny? Just ask your friendly neighborhood Tea Partier about the struggle of living in the United States of America under President Barack Stalin Hitler Hussein Obama and being forced to wait two entire years to peaceably vote out elected representatives who behave in manner you don’t like. That’s real tyranny!
I’m all for disagreeing. In fact, those who know me best would probably tell you that being disagreeable is one of greatest skills. But folks, while you’re hopefully dropping the vague references to armed resistance to the government from your vocabularies, could you go ahead and leave out the tyranny bit, too?
Republicans – say you don’t approve of the health care bill. Say you want more kids crowded into Texas public school classrooms, say you support the Trans Texas Corridor, say that Social Security is a ponzi scheme and that Medicare and Medicaid come from the “pit of hell,” but for goodness sake stop pretending to be oppressed. The very fact that you can make these outlandish claims proves that America is anything but a tyrant state.
And Democrats – call B.S. when you see it. Our side is not guilty of the kind of violent anti-government rhetoric that some on the other side embrace. And our country is not a tyranny. The next time a Tea Partier suggests otherwise, ask them if they’d like to try North Korea on for size.
Jeff Rotkoff is the famously mediocre rhythm guitar player for the capitol’s greatest cover band, the Bad Precedents. In his spare time, he has worked on congressional campaigns, for a Texas House Member, and run the House Democratic Campaign Committee. He is currently organizing the Texas First Foundation, a progressive research, message and advocacy project.
While we’re on the topic of rhetoric…
A guest editorial by Jeff Rotkoff
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