Political extremism turns into death threats and a desire to burn books


There was a time when a congressman could vote for things as American as apple pie – like roads, bridges, and other job-creating projects – without becoming the target of death threats.

And it’s hard to remember if ever before a member of Congress has spent time essentially making a cartoon video depicting the murder of another member and a sword attack on the President of the United States.

In communities across the country, school board members increasingly face harassment and threats of violence.

As if all that weren’t enough for a week in the Wars of Political Culture, two Virginia school board members suggested burning books they considered objectionable.

Politics have been turbulent in America since before the founding of the country. But the degradation of civic discourse and the level of extremism in recent years have become alarming, resulting not only in tensions but also in good faith efforts to influence the public to change it.

It seems that the people who need to listen will not. Things just seem to get worse. Among the best examples are the racist and suggestive violence-regarding prevention and regulation of COVID-19 that dominated meetings in San Diego – and triggered restrictions on public comment by county supervisors.

There is absolutely no justification for public servants and their families to be threatened and harassed in public and outside their homes. Local election officials in some states are being ousted from office by the threatening behavior of people who continue to spread former President Donald Trump’s false fantasy that the 2020 election was stolen from him.

The ironic reality is, as reports from the Washington Post and others have shown, that Trump and his forces attempted to overturn Joe Biden’s legitimate election.

At different times, Republicans eating themselves on Capitol Hill after the passage of Biden’s $ 1.2 trillion infrastructure bill could have been the kind of dispute insiders like to watch for sports. The political world loves few things more than fighting within parties. Witness how much more the news media has focused on Democratic bickering over Biden’s infrastructure and social spending proposals.

But there is nothing entertaining about the threatening appeals received by some of the 13 Republicans who voted for the bill – appeals that may have been facilitated by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga.

“I hope you die,” a caller said in a telephone message to Rep. Fred Upton, a Republican from Michigan who shared voicemail with CNN. “I hope everyone in your (expletive) family dies.”

The appellant also used unprintable language to refer to Upton as a “traitor”.

Shortly after the vote, Greene took to social media to call the 13 members “our party’s biggest traitors” and listed phone numbers for their offices in Washington.

In a somewhat cheeky gesture amid the ugliness, a GOP member asked his staff to forward the hostile calls he received at Greene’s office, according to the New York Post. Other members said most calls came from outside their districts and even their states.

Former Trump strategist Steve Bannon had published the office phone numbers of the 19 Republican senators who voted for the infrastructure bill in August, according to the New York Times.

Republicans supporting the bill said their districts needed federal dollars, which, in addition to paying for traditional road and rail infrastructure, would modernize the country’s electricity grid, expand internet access and invest. in clean energies.

The backlash against these Republicans was not really about the substance of the bill, but Trump’s belligerent opposition. (As president, Trump called for a $ 2 trillion infrastructure bill, but dropped out of negotiations when Democrats disagreed with his request to stop investigating him.)

While serious work was underway to adopt Biden’s infrastructure plan, Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Arizona, apparently altered an animated video to depict a character looking like him stabbing a likeness of Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, DN.Y., in the neck with a sword. Gosar’s figure also faced off against a Biden-like character while wielding swords.

After Gosar tweeted it, he was condemned by the White House, Ocasio-Cortez and other Democrats. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, called for an ethics inquiry and House Democrats introduced a resolution to censor Gosar – a move that was passed on Wednesday.

Minority parliamentary leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., Has remained mostly silent on threats and Gosar. Gosar’s sister did not.

“I am absolutely appalled at how far this man got off,” Jennifer Gosar told MSNBC.

Representative Gosar’s extreme views and behavior – he previously shared a video meme related to neo-Nazis and white nationalists – has been an embarrassment to some family members. Jennifer Gosar and other siblings campaigned for her opponents.

A situation in the Poway Unified School District near San Diego became of concern in September when protesters against mask requirements became so disruptive that the board had to adjourn before its work was completed.

Recently, Angela Brandt of the Poway News Chieftain reported that the school board agreed to continue to meet remotely for its next session after administrators said they received death threats and protesters showed up at their homes with “piles of manifesto documents,” according to the overseer general.

In Virginia, a parent’s concern about books with “sexually explicit” content in a high school library ignited some members of the Spotsylvania County school board.

The council ordered that the objectionable books be removed from the library shelves. But that apparently wasn’t enough for board members Rabih Abuismail and Kirk Twigg, according to The Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

“I think we should throw these books in the fire,” Abuismail said.

Twigg said he wanted to “see the books before we burn them so that we can identify within our community that we are eradicating these bad things.”

Arguments over which books should be available for students are common, but the imagery of burning them is frightening.

Ray Bradbury’s haunting novel “Fahrenheit 451”, about a bleak future with fireworks, was written in 1953, but it has never lost its relevance.

Perhaps this should be required reading for some school board members.

Michael Smolens is a columnist for The San Diego Union-Tribune.