05/26/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Extremism in Defense of Liberty is...Extremism

There is no defense for throwing bricks, cutting gas lines and making threatening phone calls, all of which is happening to members of congress and other political leaders who backed the recently passed health care legislation. The fact that the thugs who do these things are now justifying themselves by quoting versions of an old comment by conservative hero Barry Goldwater hardly makes it any better or more justifiable. In fact, it may make it worse.

By using a dollop of political theory and the name of a legitimate politician along with their mix of violence and intimidation, the perpetrators add a patina of legitimacy to their crimes for the many Americans who are upset about the bill's passage - people who are just looking for someone to make them feel that their desire for vengeance in the face of it is legitimate.

Words and images are the seedbed from which violent action spring and that is something which both sides need to address quickly. While the abuses are not equally grotesque on both sides --there simply is no democratic parallel of which I am aware to Sarah Palin's PAC placing crosshairs over images of districts which voted for the bill, it really is both sides when it comes to the use of language which may ultimately get someone hurt or worse.

Do we really need either House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer or Republican National Committee Communications Director Doug Heye arguing about who is "on the firing line"? I wonder if either has ever fired a weapon at another human being. I am guessing not. If they had, I doubt that they would use that kind of language. First, most people who have had to fight don't use the language of combat so casually. Second, the firing line is the place from which you shoot, not the place where you get shot!

Do we really need NOW President, Terry O'Neil, declaring the women "really wish that he (President Obama) would storm the ramparts for every one of our (NOW's) issues"? Do we really need anyone advocating for more storming of anything in this environment, let alone ramparts?

Do we need Senator John McCain making excuses, as he did on the Today show, about the phenomenon of violent language and imagery being used to mobilize rage against health care reform? When asked about the crosshair imagery used by Ms. Palin and others, he was silent. Silence in the face of that kind of imagery leads to death.

I think back to the year preceding the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin and to the rallies opposing his efforts to bring peace through negotiation with PLO Chairman, Yassir Arafat. At those rallies, it was common to see posters which placed crosshairs over images of the Prime Minister. Need I say more?

Rage is a dangerous emotion. When experienced in most settings, people either seek or are told to seek psychiatric help. Extremism is extremism, violence, both physical and verbal, is violence, and there is no justifying any of it. Both sides should stop using the language of war or they may foment one.

If that is what either side really wants, then they should come out and say it. If not, they should stand up against it. It's as simple as that.