I was reading the latest Matt Taibbi article in Rolling Stone at the gym this morning when these three paragraphs hit me square in the chest [bolded emphasis mine]:
Another Ohio Democrat, Steve Driehaus, clashed repeatedly with Boehner before losing his seat in the midterm elections. After Boehner suggested that by voting for Obamacare, Driehaus “may be a dead man” and “can’t go home to the west side of Cincinnati” because “the Catholics will run him out of town,” Driehaus began receiving death threats, and a right-wing website published directions to his house. Driehaus says he approached Boehner on the floor and confronted him.
“I didn’t think it was funny at all,” Driehaus says. “I’ve got three little kids and a wife. I said to him, ‘John, this is bullshit, and way out of bounds. For you to say something like that is wildly irresponsible.'”
Driehaus is quick to point out that he doesn’t think Boehner meant to urge anyone to violence. “But it’s not about what he intended — it’s about how the least rational person in my district takes it. We run into some crazy people in this line of work.”
The least rational person.
Discourse between political adversaries has historically never been high-minded or fair. But it’s one thing to leverage attacks on an opponent’s character and quite another to encourage and insinuate retaliation on that opponent from the public. Yeah, I said encourage. That website didn’t exactly publish directions to Driehaus’s residence so that people could bring him flowers. And I very much doubt that Boehner himself ordered those directions to be posted, but where were his words of condemnation when they were?
His silence makes him complicit.
No matter how much we despise those in office, we still view them as leaders. They have influence. Their words are heard. And while we’ve gotten so far disconnected from our political process that’s it’s almost impossible to to imagine ourselves doing anything but lying down in the middle of the street while the buses continue to roll right over us, the fact is that right now, mere words are spurring the least rational among us to action.
It doesn’t seem right to have to play to those people. What’s less right is that leaders disregard personal responsibility in favor of advancing party rhetoric.
Never like this.
NOTE: I make it a point not to write posts about a particular topic unless I can come up with a new angle. I can’t claim that here. But I just had to say something. I had to get it out of my system. We’ll be back to our regularly scheduled programming of absurdities tomorrow.