‘Civil Rights Day’ and the state of civility
First of all, the reason I titled this post as I did is that I think this holiday should be known as ‘Civil Rights Day.’ It rarely falls on the actual birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and given the government’s love of three-day weekends perhaps a name change is in order. For example, we rarely celebrate Washington’s Birthday on its actual date and to most it’s truncated into President’s Day.
While today Dr. King is being eulogized once again in a number of ways, perhaps this is a good time to reflect on the discourse of the civil rights era; a decade which roughly spanned from the mid-1950′s to the mid-1960′s. I was born at the very tail end of the decade, so I won’t claim that I marched in Selma or anything like that. From what I understand about the time, though, there was some seriously heated political rhetoric and on a few occasions this boiled over into violence.
Obviously we’ve come a long way since then, with the election of Barack Obama supposedly the trigger for a ‘post-racial’ society. Yet TEA Partiers like myself are tarred with the moniker of ‘racist’ by simply questioning the wisdom of Obama’s policies and plans. By extension, yes, we are questioning the content of Obama’s character but we are accused of basing our opposition on the amount of pigment in Obama’s skin.
To give another example, ask a black Republican how many times he or she is called an “Oreo” or an “Uncle Tom.”
All this call for ‘civility’ comes in the wake of the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and many others in Tuscon, a shooting where six victims died. It also comes after lefties got their weekend exercise jumping to conclusions about how shooter Jared Loughner simply had to be a TEA Party regular who got his marching orders from Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and obeyed the target symbols on the internet for Giffords’ Congressional district. Yet once evidence came out that he was a political agnostic who was, if anything, left of center – ::: sound of crickets chirping ::: .
Assuming most of you have read this blog a few times, it’s likely you know that I reside well right of center on the political scale, and had I lived in Arizona’s Eighth District I’d likely have voted for her Republican opponent in November. (In fact, Gabrielle Giffords won this election in a similar fashion to that which Frank Kratovil won our district in 2008 – via plurality, with a Libertarian candidate taking 3.9% of the Eighth District vote.)
It’s also known that I covered the July 2009 event here in Salisbury where Frank Kratovil was hung in effigy. Certainly I believe in First Amendment rights, as one might suspect I would being a member of the ‘pajamas media.’ But as I said at the time:
Let me say straight away that I wouldn’t have recommended the noose and effigy of Frank Kratovil. The “no Kratovil in 2010″ (sign) would have been effective enough.
But don’t forget that the local lefties decided to intrude upon an AFP event just a few months ago, with the intent being to disrupt the proceedings and embarass the eventual winning candidate. Admittedly, a chicken suit is less threatening than a noose but neither rise to the level of actual bloodshed.
The point is that my criticism of Kratovil would have likely been similar to that of Giffords had I lived in her district, and I wouldn’t have been shy in sharing it. But I would have been just as horrified about Loughner’s actions.
(In fact, I have a separate article I submitted to Pajamas Media about another effect the Giffords shooting may have on political discourse, with a somewhat different angle than I present here. It may be on there as soon as tomorrow.)
Some say that the political tone we are saddled with these days, with its superheated rhetoric, can be toned down on both sides. But had Martin Luther King, Jr. been assassinated in 2011 instead of 1968, we likely still would have had the scattered rioting which occurred in the wake of his death. Emotional reactions to the death of popular leaders seldom change but are manifested in different ways.
Like it or not, part of the price of living in a free society as we do is having to put up with these arguments. Normally they are settled by the ballot, though, and it’s telling that it took someone with a mental illness to settle their differences with a bullet. Fortunately, our society still prefers the former solution despite the best efforts of some to argue otherwise.