Earlier in the month, Nancy Pelosi made headlines by showing actual emotion, as she spoke of her memories of the murders of Mayor Moscone and Harvey Milk in San Francisco in 1978. What should have made people sit up and take notice, however, was not the Nancy Pelosi almost cried on camera; it was that she said anything about those incidents at all.
Of the journalists covering the press conference, only Rachel Maddow mentioned what only we Bay Area natives know: No one, but no one, talks about those murders. Sometimes, in hushed terms, you might hear a parent explain what is meant by “The Twinkie Defense,” or you might see a teacher gently explaining to their students why the metal detector is so important in City Hall. In general, though, the violence of that day, the riots that ensued after the bullshit verdict was announced, and the deep ripping apart of the heart of a city previously defined by its love of love…they’re just not spoken of in public. The scars are too deep, and the underlying wounds too fresh, to cheapen them by crass allusions or casual references.
So, much as the Republican leadership would probably like to dismiss Pelosi’s near-tears as Hillary-esque cynical pandering, I can vouch that they’re not. Bay Area natives can back me up: If you want to take the cynical pandering route, there are, tragically, plenty of other political assassinations to reference. Not Harvey Milk. Not Mayor Moscone. Not the Bay-Arean boogie man himself, Dan White.
There’s another reason politicians never invoke the murders of November, 1978, and it’s why the Republicans should have noticed. Pelosi referenced a horrific act of violence which was, perhaps most notably, not perpetrated by some lone wingnut, but rather by an insider, another politician, who had lost his sense of reason along with the election. By referencing Dan White’s loss of any sense of right and wrong, and the loss of lives that derived therefrom, she was sending a message to the Joe Wilsons and Michele Bachmanns of the opposition: Walk it back now, before it eats you alive.
Joe Wilson’s breach of decorum was part of the impetus for the remark, I’m sure, since it signified something more than someone gabbing when he shouldn’t have; it signified someone whose relegation to the margins of the political system has pushed them past the point of reasoned debate and into a realm of pure emotion, where anger gives the excludee’s mind permission to realize whatever fantasy they have of taking the system down. The reason for the public chiding of Wilson on the House floor, then, should act as a reminder to everyone there: The business of politics, while it may have personal ramifications, is not personal, and cannot be allowed to get personal without losing touch with healthy and rational debate, the cornerstone of any democracy.
I bring this up now, and mention Michele Bachmann along with it, because she too now has a reason to walk her rhetoric back. The murder of Bill Sparkman has to weight heavy on her head, and I mean that not in the sense that I think she has the conscience and reason to assume guilt for it. I mean that the rest of her colleagues need to make her feel the blood on her hands. She needs to rethink making comments about Obama trying to use Census data for putting people into concentration camps. What was once simply funny-through-its-idiocy chatter has now turned decidedly unfunny. It has a body count. Someone is an orphan directly because of it. His name is Josh. He deserved better.
For anyone not familiar with the Sparkman murder, here are the facts:
Census worker Bill Sparkman was found dead earlier this month, he was naked and gagged, with duct tape over his eyes. Duct tape also bound Sparkman’s hands and feet…The word “Fed” was written on Sparkman’s chest, setting off speculation last week that the Census worker and part-time schoolteacher was killed in an act of anti-government sentiment.
Sources also told the AP that Sparkman’s Census Bureau ID was found taped to his head and shoulder area — a detail which may add to that speculation.
Bachmann has, so far, refused to answer questions about Sparkman’s murder, and has taken back up her imaginary cause of anti-one-world-currency (???), which I take to mean two things: first, she feels too guilty about the murder to comment on it; second, she’s going to go back to talk of imaginary-but-wonky threats, in the hopes the body count may stay low.
Sparkman’s tortured corpse, however, calls on her to do more. So do the people who live in poor, secluded areas in the country, people who are already underrepresented and whose hometowns are already under-resourced, people the Government may never know need help because Census workers may be too afraid now to tell them so. Every family in a rural area who might like better infrastructure, more representation in Washington, or maybe their own Post Office, demand this of Ms. Bachmann.
And now, thanks to the harsh invectives being so cavalierly thrown about by Ms. Bachmann and her ilk (yes, I’m leaving out Glenn Beck on purpose here, since he is not, in any way, expected to act as an authority figure to anyone), people think it’s funny to poll Facebook users to see if they think Obama should be killed.
That’s it. Enough.
Enough irresponsibly inflammatory comments. Enough making things up out of whole-cloth, things meant to terrify and incite the populous, things that lead to acts of violence. Enough guns at political rallies. Enough single fathers bound naked and hanged, just for doing their job.