Guest Commentary by Dan Umthun
Today, two good cops are dead a short distance from my house in Des Moines, Iowa.
By a man who was convinced that a police officer telling him to put down his Confederate Flag at a football game was a violation of his constitutional rights and possibly that his only recourse was murder; some patriotic act of revolution. The same man convicted of a racist assault in a parking lot in which he beat another human and shouted racist slurs. A man with prior gun crime convictions and a history of belligerence with law enforcement. Today, before the police caught the white suspect, they initially insinuated Black Lives Matter supporters could be responsible. Today, a black church in Mississippi was burnt and spray painted with the words ‘Vote Trump’.
What about next Wednesday?
Violence isn’t helping anyone’s cause, of course, whether you’re pro civil rights or pro the other thing. The other thing is racism.
There’s no way not to politicize this, because it’s inherently political. And it cannot be chalked up to ‘partisan rhetoric on both sides’. Because it isn’t there on both sides.
The right wing owns this. Pure and simple. Your words have consequences. You cannot have a reasoned discussion with someone who rejects 80% of news sources, massive chunks of provable fact and believes in vast, nebulous conspiracies promulgated by specious talk show hosts and news organizations and reality TV stars presenting demonstrably disprovable opinion or openly pernicious speculation as fact. And when people get charged up by listening to you to a point where they act, violently, you own it.
You have to own it.
I used to be a dyed in the wool republican conservative. Until a few years ago I still fully considered myself a ‘conservative’ of some sort. At least fundamentally? I couldn’t betray my values. But my values, my core values of liberty, the value of human life, self reliance, justice, rule of law, truth, efficiency of government, and the desire for a robust economy largely unfettered but still controlled by the people, not the state or corporations… These remain unchanged. But I realized that the republican party and the self identified conservative movement no longer stands for these things, in fact. They reject science in favor of ‘corporatocracy’, promote conspiracy rather than civic discourse, and their candidate directly provokes violent sedition rather than peaceful transfer of power.
I’m telling you this, Christians, conservatives, party of Lincoln: you are not betraying your core principles by abandoning the people who no longer represent you. If, in fact, they ever truly have. I’m not endorsing an alternative party or candidate. I’m not asking you to vote for Clinton.
I’m telling you that the people to whom you are loyal are not loyal to you, your interests, and are purely poison. Poison. To all of us.
By turning off talk radio, by repudiating calls to violence, by rejecting racism, and by returning to a civic, reasoned debate, you uphold your integrity.
You’re betraying your principles not to do so.
No one is taking your country from you. They are simply trying to live in it without being openly threatened by people like you, or me.
We repudiate violence, all of us do, sure. Sure. But you can’t repudiate violence as Rush, Sean, Glenn, Jan, and Simon, Tomi, Tucker, Alex, the ghost of Andrew Breitbart and the rest of them will, because of course they will; and not also cease to fuel the delusion of vast conspiracy, vote rigging, and paranoia they’ve stoked for 20+ years that I used to buy hook line and sinker. On election day white supremacists, nazis, and the alt right have pledged to go ‘watch’ polls to ensure a victory for a self avowed sexual predator. There will be more violence still. And thereafter, the usual hand-wringing from the right. ‘You don’t know for sure, wait til the “facts” are in, violence is deplorable…etc,etc.’
You don’t get to chastise a fire for burning you while throwing newspaper at it. Or in this case, talk radio.
Dan Umthun is a stand up comedian, producer, and lover of comics. You can check him out on The Doomcast. Reach him on Twitter @danumthun.