It's finally gotten to me.
Joe Stack burned his house down and a flew private plane into the side of a Texas IRS building killing one and himself. Days later, Stack's daughter goes on Good Morning America and calls him a "hero" and hopes that "now people will listen." A hero for violently lashing out against a government who expected him to pay his taxes like the rest of us. What are we supposed to be listening to? The cries of the families or a political agenda?
Better yet, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) reportedly spoke to a crowd at CPAC and according to TMP encouraged his listeners to "implode" other IRS branches in protest. An elected government official, pandering to his political base for votes -- potentially inciting violence. I say potentially, because it could and very well might happen again.
I had no idea that as a society, we were condoning domestic terrorism. I must have missed that memo. Sure, you stop someone on the street and they'll say Stack was wrong and his actions terrible. But, where is the outrage? The nation mourned when Timothy McVeigh drove a truck into the Oklahoma City federal building. Even though I was in middle school, I recall an out pouring of sympathy for the victims, massive news coverage, and a spirit of resolve from the masses. It was a national tragedy. This incident gets a couple of days of play by the media and the public moves on. King's vitriolic comments get more attention than the attack itself.
I, for one, am disgusted. At the media, sure. Really, I am disgusted with us.
In the name of public safety, there are laws that prevent someone from yelling "Fire!" in a crowded room. You cannot put the words "President" and "shoot" in the same sentence without opening yourself up to the Secret Service. (By the way, I'll have coffee waiting when you get here.) But, so fine is the line between alluding to violence and inciting it, that sometimes we write the latter off as harmless. To compound this further, no politician wants to regulate our right to free speech. It's political suicide, and, more importantly, sacrilegious to our Democracy.
Here is where many would correctly point out we already do regulate speech. The Patriot Act, corporate contributions to political campaigns, even the aforementioned "Fire!" example; all are forms of speech regulation. These all have their place, but each directly addresses a particular concern.
What I am addressing is not so singular, its not a symptom. The constant bombardment of politically charged rhetoric into our homes has done nothing but divide us -- fueling animosity and frustration with one another. Both Fox News and MSNBC slant events to further their own political agendas. Glenn Beck cries about his country but doesn't bother to check his facts when he scares the hell out of seniors. We can't simply condemn them for idiocy or ignorance, can we? Please? Oh yeah, free speech.
No, regulation is not the answer. What we should do is far harder to accomplish. We, as a nation and free society, have to move ahead. Starting with condemning the violence mentioned earlier and to treating those who capitalize on it with equal disdain. Societal pressure and change is the only real way to affect our political discourse, which, right now, is deconstructive and childish.
What's in this for you? Well, look around you. Militant conservatives are on the rise, our Senate is barely functional; many of our liberal allies are spineless or self-serving, and worst of all, Sarah Palin remains on television. What is missing from this list is a voice that demanding what is best in us all and not drowned out by media noise.
This is not a call to political arms, that has been done by far too many. Instead, this is a call for objectivity, a call for decency and humility from our pundits, elected officials and, most importantly, ourselves. We must remember that our current society is an unfortunate reflection of us and unless we, as individuals, rise out of this quandary, hope and change will remain words on a college kids dorm room.