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In the postbellum hysteria over the health care bill, there has been a disturbing escalation of violent and petulant reaction from the extreme right. Witness the hate letters and death threats blowing into the offices and homes of yea voters in Congress (and their relatives); the reckless and vociferous attack speeches of some Republican leaders of Congress; the unruly mobs assembled on Capitol steps, encouraged by these same Republican leaders; the nasty animadversions on Fox News and their apologists; and the frantic ranting of the pathetic tea-baggers, who resemble the whirligig beetle “which typically swims rapidly in circles on the surface” (Concise Oxford English Dictionary).
All of this spills over into other ostensibly nonpolitical manifestations of mania, such as school shootings, now sweeping into lower and lower grade levels; appalling child murder by drug warriors in Ciudad Juarez; and flash mobs. This craze started out as pillow fights in Manhattan, peaceful gatherings to celebrate the arrival of spring (Rome), dancing the tango and “Thriller” (Berlin), support for the Climate Summit in Copenhagen, World AIDS Days in Chanchung, China, and the Good Mood Mission in L.A. But recently, flash mobs, mainly populated by teenagers and younger participants, have turned unruly and destructive in Philadelphia and elsewhere. Where does it stop? And when?
Isn’t there a correlation? The dissolution of comity and civility among fellow citizens; accelerating disregard for other people’s rights; and tolerance for degeneracy in the private lives of VIPs and lesser folk, all of whom want to “put this behind them and get on with their lives.” Then there’s the massive effluvium of garbage in recent movies, TV shows, pulp fiction and nonfiction. Some authors and directors delight in “pushing the envelope,” to reach lower and lower elements of their audiences.
What’s to be done in addition to fervent prayer? Some sort of grassroots communication with individuals in high places, of course; letters to editors; maybe, or even published manifestoes. Support for identifiable peacemakers, like Amnesty International, the Southern Poverty Law Center, American Friends Service Committee, the like. Adopt-a-Highway? At the very least, the exchange and promulgation of corrective, collective right reason. The time is ripe.