Is anyone else getting nervous? No, I don't mean about the economy. This is more serious.
We have been hearing shouts such as "terrorist" and "off with his head" at John McCain and Sarah Palin rallies, referring to candidate Barack Obama. When John McCain is widely heard saying "That one" of his opponent, and when John McCain accuses him of loving terrorists, this could easily transform into an incitement to deadly violence. And until yesterday, the Republican campaigners did nothing to criticize or restrain those potentially violence-inducing expressions that spring from the heated campaigns.
Why is a shout of "terrorist" so dangerous, when uncorrected? It is because some single individual with a rifle, just one out of the millions, may suddenly "understand" that a terrorist takeover of the country is about to ensue, and it would be that individual's "duty" to kill the terrorist.
Hopefully even McCain supporters can see (and I believe many of them can) the danger of allowing elections to be influenced by threats and physical intimidation.This may become the door opening wider in future elections to more explicit branding of an opponent as a non-citizen, terrorist, crazy, animal, or other degrading insult. The next step is simply to put the animal out of its misery.
Is that what we want? Is that what anyone normal wants?
I think the most tragic event that could occur nationally right now would be an assassination of either candidate (or of their VP candidates). This is not just about the treatment of indiviuals, where uncalled-for violence is the worst insult and injury to a person, not allowing for discussion and the possibility of persuasion. It is about our ability now and in the future to strongly disagree, at times, but to carefully work through the arguments, listen to the opponent's thinking, and perhaps even reach a mutual understanding leading to a jointly supported result, whether that is legislation, or a policy.
Leaders, and I do mean true leaders, do not let their followers foment more and more violent emotions. That is why John McCain's recent public statements trying to moderate his crowds are heartening. For example, at one recent rally he said, ""If you want a fight, we will fight. But we will be respectful. I admire Sen. Obama and his accomplishments." And when people booed, he cut them off.
I hope John McCain is waking up to the danger to all of us of this moment and these last few weeks of the campaign. Hopefully John McCain knows that a country supporting the best efforts of Barack Obama is better than a country whose leader has been assassinated or more simply, who is consistently disrespected by a significant block of those in government who are be suspicious of Obama's motives.
Let moderation rule the day. As John McCan said, "If you want a fight, we will fight". Yes, continue the sparring if you feel that is the best way to distinguish yourself from the other candidate. But please, when your followers cross over that line of accusation, also remember to correct their raw anger.