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 Post subject: ALAN BISBORT:This Living Fear: Threats against the president
PostPosted: Thu Sep 10, 2009 11:48 pm 
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ALAN BISBORT:This Living Fear: Threats against the president better be taken seriously

Though I would like to think my country was better than this, it's clear that many Americans hate President Barack Obama for the color of his skin. Many more — though there's some overlap — hate him for being a "socialist" or "foreign" or for the simple reason that he won the presidential election.

The anti-Obama rhetoric started, of course, in 2008 at McCain-Palin rallies, where audience members shouted things like "terrorist" and "kill him" at the mention of his name. Neither McCain nor Palin exerted much effort to quash the outbursts, and so they grew, blossoming into all manner of outlandish behavior among the tea baggers, birthers, health care forum shouters, and even members of Congress like Michele Bachmann.

The near-total lack of accountability for those responsible for inciting such hatred is chilling. But it was not until men armed with assault weapons started appearing outside venues where Pres. Obama was speaking that the slope seemed especially slippery. Last week, an Arizona pastor told a Fox affiliate, "I hope that God strikes Barack Obama with brain cancer so he can die like Ted Kennedy ... and I hope it happens today." The pastor added, "I will not take the law into my hands. I will not take up any arms ..."

The reverend's words struck a chord of déjà vu, not only reminding me of the line from Shakespeare's Richard II ("Have I no friend will rid me of this living fear?") but also of something in William Manchester's The Death of a President. Here's what Manchester, whose papers are housed now at Wesleyan University, reported:

When Pres. Kennedy was planning his fateful trip to Dallas, Sen. J. William Fulbright pleaded with him not to go, citing the "widespread local hatred for the president," and the animosity toward the federal government that "crossed the breakwater." Dallas was known as the "Southwest hate capital of Dixie," the hatred fueled by religious fundamentalism, racist resentment and bigotry toward Catholics. Indeed, according to Manchester, talk of killing Kennedy was common in Texas, which was home to thriving John Birch and Patrick Henry societies, something called the Christian Crusaders, the Minutemen, and the National Indignation Convention.


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