Thursday, May 29, 2008

Assassination Talk

I'm late to the game in writing anything about this, and hopefully it's a bizarre group of episodes that will be past and forgotten before long. Still, it seems impossible to ignore the numerous instances lately where the idea of assassination has been discussed in relationship to the Democratic primaries. It's unlikely anyone has missed Hillary's now repeated mentions of Robert Kennedy (the various instances where she has dropped this tidbit are chronicled well in the video of Keith Olbermann's Special comment available on Huffington Post), but I for one missed for a few days the fact that a Fox News commentator joked and chuckled about the idea of Obama being "knocked off" (she did later offer an apology). Yesterday when I uncovered this ugly piece of cable news, I'll admit I was so enraged... outraged... saddened that I couldn't even figure out what to say about it.

I'll be the first to admit, I'm a young person and have a relatively brief experience in being politically informed and engaged. I was not alive during the bleak stretch of American history where numerous leaders who stood ready to speak out on behalf of the poor and the downtrodden (Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy) were cut down in cold blood, preventing them from living out a full life and continuing to advocate for deeper equality and justice. As someone who works in the arena of fighting poverty I take personally the ethical charge to help those less fortunate.

I truly believe that focusing on issues that help people build stronger futures for themselves, their families, their children (education, increasing access to affordable healthcare, help to our elderly) are the types of issues that are build a stronger nation. Here, in a year where a candidate of relatively unique ethnic background also speaks so clearly to these types of issues and to aspiration for a better future I think we should all speak out in outrage against those who would raise the prospect of assassination interfering as it has in the past. The notion is bleak at best, nauseating really, and while I agree that preparing to prevent such an outcome is wise, tossing the prospect around lightly is grotesque.

It is naive to ignore what has happened in the past when applicable to our current situation, but I would raise the challenge that the past gives us two possibilities:
  1. We can treat the past as a script, believing that those who have tried and failed simply show how efforts for progress are inevitably doomed. Cynically we can accept that efforts for good are going to be derailed by corruption, violence, or other means and we can prepare ourselves by deciding in advance that there is no chance for progress.
  2. Or... We can learn from what we have seen. We can take up the challenge of being a creative people who engage our own problems head-on with the innovation and energy needed to build something different. Without denying that bad things can happen and certainly will at times, knowing the world is not simple, and being unafraid of the fact that there will be bumps in the road. We can set out towards a bright future taking the unity and strength we've seen growing this spring all across America as a sign of what might be if we are daring enough to believe.
For whatever reason the Clinton camp has decided that the last best way they can argue for their continued existence in the race is to raise all the prospects of what might go wrong if they leave (or are not chosen... even though it becomes clearer every day that the nation's Democrats already chose quite clearly). All the assassination talk is, to me, the most bleak development in this slowly unraveling string of rhetoric, and it deserves all of our resounding rejection. Fear is not the way to our brighter future.

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