Before our national Civility Moment completely fades away. I want to take some time for self-reflection. Come on, join in, it'll be fun. Your homework is to find a rightwing friend, colleague or relative, and ask them what drives them crazy about the left. No, let me rephrase that; what annoys them most about the left. Being civil here.
As I go back over my past writings, looking for articles to post here, I see a lot of hostility towards the right. I showed a lot of hostility to some Democrats, too, but whatever metaphors I used to illustrate my opposition, I never advocated violence. I've always been uncomfortable with anyone on our side who did, whether it was jokingly, like Alec Baldwin, or lyrically, like M.I.A.
Listening to rightwing radio over the last ten days, I hear a lot of claims of equivalence, that Democrats do it, too. I've heard them cite President Obama's line about "if they bring a knife to the fight, I'll bring a gun." They offer plenty of examples, many of them well-taken.
We're a competitive species, and our language is dense with metaphors of war and battle. I wouldn't want the speech police to censure every instance, but at the same time I think people in public life, in positions of leadership, need to choose their words carefully. Maybe that's one thing we can take from this moment.
But if you look at data instead of rhetoric, there's a pretty obvious imbalance. Threats against the president quadrupled as soon as the guy whose name ends in a vowel took over. Actionable threats against members of Congress are overwhelmingly directed at Democrats. And new polling results show 13% of teabaggers - sorry, Tea Party members - believe that violence against the government is justified. That's one in eight.
What drives me crazy about rightwingers is eliminationist rhetoric. I condemn it on the left, but I hear it on the right all the time. The core message of people like Mark Levin, Michael Savage, Ann Coulter, and their leader, Rush, is that liberals are not just mistaken on policy but actually subversive. Illegitimate. Dedicated to bringing tyranny, imposing socialism, consfiscating firearms. Motivated to expand government in order to create a dependent class and amass power unto themselves. Bent on destroying the republic and the constitution. Vermin who must be stamped out.
I hear this All. The. Time.
So I ask my rightwing friends, where is the leftwing equivalent of Coulter, Savage and Levin? I know that Michael Moore and Keith Olbermann may hurt your feelings, but have they called for your elimination? I don't just mean this as a gotcha question (though if it works out that way, fine). But I really do want to know.
Friends on the right: do we threaten you? Do our words make you fear for your safety? Let us know, and we'll take it up at the next Central Committee meeting to see if we can issue a directive to tone it down.