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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Let the mob run

"They will kill you." I remember the moment, the atmosphere in the room, the intensity of sunlight coming in through the west windows over the mountains into my colleague's church board room, the faces of other clergy around the table, and the resonant silence that met his words. "Jan, you know they will kill you if you don't leave." The only reason I can remember that scene now is that: I didn't believe it at the time. My fellow pastors, who knew my setting better than I did, (that's for sure!) urged me for months to leave. But Miss Naivete, Miss Innocent, didn't believe it. I was unnerved, (that's for sure!) but I didn't believe it, not that, not that serious a threat. I didn't sleep, didn't focus, didn't function at my usual level for all of those following months. I was already traumatized. People don't function well while truly traumatized. We may rise to heroic actions when we are threatened,or those around us are threatened, but the Chinese water torture, as we call it, or the "white torture," as we also call it, or the "extreme measures," as we often now call it, none of these lend themselves to high functioning. The extreme rhetoric, the behaviors I described yesterday, the harassment --- all of these create distractions and undermine clear thinking, are, as they say, "crazy-making." They are more than threatening. They are traumatizing. And the two are different in kind. So. I was traumatized for months before the final blows. A mob was being stirred up. Riled up, manipulated. And the smooth-talking magistrate never once called them out, never challenged either their outrageous perceptions or their escalating behaviors. And in the end, he made it explicit, You will do what you will do. (Those of you who remember the Christian story will recognize that line.) They did. Do what they would do. Not isolated incidents anymore but a pattern. A terrifying pattern. And finally, it wasn't one of their leaders who delivered the last of their blows. It was a fringe guy, one of the mob, dare I say, part of the rabble, who acted, I think, more out of confusion and unorganized anxiety than his own clear motivation. Ah, but finally, this is not about me. This is about what is going on in our country right now. And it horrifies, terrifies me. Is it only a matter of time before a fringe guy, part of the rabble, the mob, shoots off more than his or her mouth. I am afraid. Death threats, including the call to hang Senator Patty Murray, use of the "n" word, the "f" word addressed directly on Capital steps to members of Congress, and spitting on Members of Congress as they entered the building, and now this afternoon, a gas line cut to the home of a brother of a Member of Congress who has... four young children at home (the brother's address was given by mistake instead of the MOC). And the leaders of the Republican Party are namby pamby about criticizing it. They must CALL OUT this violence and the threats to violence loudly, unequivocably, and with all of the authority and determination of the elected positions they hold. To do less is to leave the mob to run its course. Which will not end well. For anyone. Not one. Democracy is messy. But for the love of God, these are NOT isolated incidents in the sense that they are so far out of the mainstream, they are becoming a pattern. And the GOP must CALL THEM OUT. Mob mentalities are easily manipulated, and when they are not discouraged ---- ask me, check my medical records --- they ACT OUT THEIR HATE. What do we do? Maybe I start by calling my GOP Congressman and asking him to speak up, to condemn this behavior. Not the opinions or the persons themselves, but the behavior, over the top, dangerous. Deadly.