And Then Things Got Worse

And then things got worse – an all-purpose phrase for everything since September 1939 or so, or perhaps universally useful. Yes, your Republican friends warned you – don’t vote us out of office, there’ll be hell to pay. Maybe you didn’t like the way they governed – they didn’t much like to govern anyway, as government was always the problem, never the solution. So they set out to prove that, and did. But you’ll like them even less as an opposition party – they can bring this nation to a halt, and will. You know how William F. Buckley put it – “A Conservative is a fellow who is standing athwart history yelling ‘Stop!'” And he was proud of it.

And your queasy liberal friends fretted about what would happen if we elected a black man as president. Those who just couldn’t vote for such a person would act up. And what do you know, Governor Rick Perry of Texas now talks openly of Texas seceding from the union – something about his state being forced to take federal aid in tough economic times, but it feels like old times. And there is the sovereignty movement – state after state saying they don’t have to follow any federal rules they don’t like, as they’re sovereign entities. Much of that involves issuing cease and desist orders to the federal government – don’t use any money from this state to do this, that or the other thing. Legally, that’s going nowhere, but it provides an emotional outlet to those who watch grandstanding politicians flamboyantly filing the court papers. It’s as deeply satisfying as those Tea Bag Parties on Tax Day – and about as fruitful. You remember smugly saying to your teacher in eighth grade that you didn’t have to do anything you didn’t want to do, like write that essay. He said, yes, that’s true, and walked away. You won. And then you got the F that you had to explain to the parents. Yes, you were absolutely right, but they probably didn’t congratulate you for standing up for your principles.

But we voted the Republicans out, and elected a smart and charismatic black man as president, and things did get worse. There are certain things that certain people will not tolerate. There always are. Then the guy nominates a publicly fiery, round and outspoken but legally quite conservative (small-c) Hispanic woman to the Supreme Court:

In sum, in an eleven-year career on the Second Circuit, Judge Sotomayor has participated in roughly 100 panel decisions involving questions of race and has disagreed with her colleagues in those cases (a fair measure of whether she is an outlier) a total of 4 times. Only one case (Gant) in that entire eleven years actually involved the question whether race discrimination may have occurred. (In another case (Pappas) she dissented to favor a white bigot.) She participated in two other panels rejecting district court rulings agreeing with race-based jury-selection claims. Given that record, it seems absurd to say that Judge Sotomayor allows race to infect her decision-making.

She doesn’t hate white folks. She’s a judge, after all. Still, outrage abounds.

Well, some people know how that works. Walter Mosley does, but he recommends someone else – “Ta-Nehisi Coates is the young James Joyce of the hip hop generation.”

Well, if you can understand the world and the human heart by walking through Dublin maybe the same holds true for Baltimore. That seems to be what Ta-Nehisi Coates is up to in The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood:

Coates recalls an adolescence of surreptitiously standing on corners eying girls, drinking fifths, and earning reps, mindful of his father’s admonition about the Knowledge. Central to the Knowledge was the need to confront fears and bullies and beat them in order to live in peace. For a while, his own style was to “talk and duck” – later he found places to be himself in African drumming and writing. The Knowledge focused on alternative paths for race-conscious black men, respectful of the broader culture, but always a bit on the margins. His father had balanced his own life between square jobs and a black book publishing enterprise. As Coates grew up, he replaced his comic books with his father’s collection of classic literature on the race struggle and found his own way.

Here’s the LA Times chatting with Coates on his recent visit to Los Angeles – the man takes a long hard look at things. And as he now writes for the Atlantic, in the age of outrage, he has been trying to figure it all out:

Liberals have, for decades, taken shots for being political correct, for being sensitive, and for trying to “understand” people who are different from them. It’s been a long road since the 60s. I don’t know how I feel about Affirmative Action, these days. I remember cringing (even in my nationalist days) when I heard people says blacks couldn’t be racist. I remember cringing more when that dude in D.C. got fired for using “niggardly.” There’s a way of looking at all the places liberals have gone wrong, and seeing this (what, 40 year?) exercise in tolerance as bad acid trip. But there’s another way of looking at the great tolerance experiment – practicing for the future.

And the great tolerance experiment hasn’t gone that smoothly:

It may well be true that Geraldine Ferraro was a token choice for the VP slot in 84. But I was eight years old when that happened, and understood that Mondale was doing something that had never been done before, and thus assuming a level of risk. I don’t think it’s so much the act of nominating Ferraro, as it is the act of having people around you who have some sense of what sexism in this country means. I don’t think it’s so much having Jesse Jackson run in 84 and 88, as it is having people in your camp who understand what his run means. And then after his run is over, putting his people in positions of power in your party.

It’s about practicing Tolerance. It’s about attempting to understand people who are radically different from you, and saying to them you want their voice in the process. Tolerance isn’t just a value you hold so much as it’s something you do, repeatedly. It’s uncomfortable. You fuck up. You go to parties where they play music that you don’t know how to dance to. You go to restaurants where the food is difference. You go to neighborhoods, where no one speaks English. The whole time people on the outside are laughing at you. The people you’re trying to understand get pissed at you, and call you racist, homophobe, bigot, sexist etc.

But they ultimately respect you for trying. And you get better. You pick up bits of a second language. You learn to like the food, to enjoy the music. And then one day you look up, and lo and behold, it seems like the whole world is dancing to that same music, eating that same food.

It all works out, you see. But for some it never works out:

The conservative movement has never gotten “tolerance.” They think tolerance is something you do as a favor for someone else, that it’s a slogan, that it involves appointing a showman who employs ancient slang. They don’t understand. Tolerance is about warfare – it makes your army bigger than the other guy’s army. It gives you access to weaponry that your enemies have seemingly never heard of (like, the internet).

Liberal Tolerance is the long war, it’s the long game. It’s Barack Obama, at his core. Liberal tolerance – not Jesse Helms – argued for interracial unions. Liberal tolerance is what allowed Obama to neutralize Rev. Wright, and make his race speech. Liberal tolerance is what allowed him to go to Notre Dame and talk with empathy about abortion. Liberal tolerance bets on the future. It presages that world (the world of today) that the GOP has spent very little time preparing for.

Of course they didn’t. They were with Buckley, shouting the magic word – Stop!

But sometimes they do more than shout:

A Kansas doctor reviled by anti-abortion groups for his work providing “late-term” abortions was shot and killed in his Wichita, Kansas, church on Sunday, and police said they captured the man responsible.

Police said they planned to charge a 51-year-old man on Monday with homicide and two counts of aggravated assault in the death of 67-year-old George Tiller, who died from a single gunshot.

Tiller was shot while serving as an usher for Sunday services in the foyer at Reformation Lutheran Church. The shooter threatened two other men at the church who tried to intervene, police said.

“We feel that this is an act of an isolated individual, however our investigation continues,” said Wichita deputy police chief Tom Stolz.

Stolz said they were investigating whether the shooter had any ties to anti-abortion groups.

He did:

July 7, [1997], Kansas: Scott Roeder is sentenced to sixteen months in state prison for parole violations following a 1996 conviction for having bomb components in his car trunk. Roeder, a sovereign citizen and tax protester, violated his parole by not filing tax returns or providing his social security number to his employer.

He was also an active member of Operation Rescue, a parolee who transported bombing equipment – and tea bags no doubt.

Background of the event from the Kansas papers:

Protesters blockaded Tiller’s clinic during Operation Rescue’s “Summer of Mercy” protests during the summer of 1991, and Tiller was shot by Rachelle Shannon at his clinic in 1993. Tiller was wounded in both arms, and Shannon remains in prison for the shooting… Tiller’s clinic was severely vandalized earlier this month. According to the Associated Press, his lawyer said wires to security cameras and outdoor lights were cut and that the vandals also cut through the roof and plugged the buildings’ downspouts. Rain poured through the roof and caused thousands of dollars of damage in the clinic. Tiller reportedly asked the FBI to investigate the incident.

He was a target, and on Fox News, Bill O’Reilly had fanned the flames:

On Friday, November 3, 2006, Bill O’Reilly featured an exclusive segment on his show, The O’Reilly Factor, saying that he has an “inside source” with official clinic documentation indicating that George Tiller performs late-term abortions to alleviate “temporary depression” in the pregnant woman. According to reporting data provided to the Kansas Board of Healing Arts for the year 1998, all of the post-viable partial-birth (dilation and extraction) abortion procedures performed in Kansas during that year were performed because “the attending physician believe[d] that continuing the pregnancy [would] constitute a substantial and irreversible impairment of the patient’s mental function.” Tiller responded to O’Reilly’s statements by demanding an investigation into the “inside source” through which the information was leaked, suggesting that Phill Kline, then the Kansas Attorney General, was responsible. Kline denied the charge.

And there’s this recent clip – O’Reilly calls Tiller the “so-called baby killer” and calls Tiller’s clinic a “death-mill, which is exactly what it is.” But O’Reilly didn’t say it was okay to kill the guy. He only implied that was what Tiller deserved. Implication isn’t incitement, really.

Randall Terry, head of Operation Rescue, however, was quite pleased:

“George Tiller was a mass murderer and we cannot stop saying that,” Terry said. “He was an evil man – his hands were covered with blood.”

Terry said he was now concerned that the Obama administration “will use Tiller’s killing to intimidate pro-lifers into surrendering our most effective rhetoric and actions.”

Matthew Yglesias says that Randall Terry is right about that:

Random murder of civilians in order to coerce political concessions doesn’t have a great track-record. But direct action terrorist violence against abortion providers has, I think, proven to be a fairly successful tactic. Every time you murder a doctor, you create a disincentive for other medical professionals to provide these services. What’s more, you create a need for additional security at facilities around the country. In addition, the anti-abortion protestors who frequently gather near clinics are made to seem much more intimidating by the fact that the occurrence of these sorts of acts of violence.

In general, I think people tend to overestimate the efficacy of violence as a political tactic. But in this particular case, I think people tend to understate it.

But for all the practical effectiveness of the targeted assassination of particular doctors – publicly killing them one at a time – there is a political cost. And that is a more serious matter. Al Giordano explores that here:

The assassination this morning of Wichita doctor George Tiller, on his way into a Lutheran church service, was the second attempt on his life, this one successful. The first attempt on the doctor who works in a reproductive health clinic that has long been targeted by Operation Rescue and other anti-choice organizations came on August 19, 1993, when a man named Stanley Shannon’s bullets wounded the doctor in both arms. (Shannon served an 11-year sentence for that crime.)

Just two-and-a-half years ago, Dr. Tiller was targeted with the usual vitriol by Fox News talker Bill O’Reilly, who falsely accused the doctor of performing late term abortions – legal to protect the health of the mother – to treat temporary psychological depression of the patient. Tiller denied the charge, and accused the then-attorney general of the state, Phill Kline, as being O’Reilly’s source for the claim. Kline had charged Dr. Tiller, in 2006, with 30 counts of administering abortions to minors and other crimes. The Court dismissed the charges. In 2007, Democratic Attorney General Paul Morrison charged Dr. Tiller on 19 counts. Two months ago, a jury acquitted the doctor on each and every charge.

So legal measures were getting nowhere, and when that happens, who wouldn’t turn to terrorism?

Well, anyone with any sense wouldn’t turn to terrorism, and Giordano Sanguinetti suggests in his 1979 essay – the idea is that State power and terrorism are mutually symbiotic and dependent on each other. In short, each reinforces the other, as in this case, as Giordano explains:

That, this time, the assassination attempt succeeded, and that it happened in the sanctuary of a church of a mainstream Protestant faith, will provoke a double whammy of shock and revulsion, including among tens of millions of Americans that do not like abortion, but likewise believe that assassination is obviously just as (or more) anti-life.

The original assassination attempt on Dr. Tiller came eight months into the Clinton presidency. The parallel with today’s offense ought to be obvious: a pro-choice president takes office and the violent extremists go all crazy, whipped up by some of the same right wing radio talkers today as sixteen years ago.

The predictable knee-jerk response from some in the pro-choice majority will be to attempt to demonize and link all Americans that define themselves as “pro life” as aiding and abetting this act of terrorism by having a mere opinion, just as George W. Bush and others attempted to link all oppositional dissent to the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Giordano goes on to argue that Obama won’t go along with that – Obama’s remarks at Notre Dame show he doesn’t wean to demonize anyone. But the damage is done, and Obama gains leverage:

An assassin in Kansas has just inadvertently strengthened the hand and command of this head of State. A very similar dynamic will come into play as did on April 19, 1995, when a terrorist car-bombing of the Oklahoma Federal Building killed 168 people, and wounded 450 more, including children in a day care center there. That terrorist act – the man convicted for it, Timothy McVeigh, believed he was avenging an act of State terrorism two years prior in Waco, Texas – returned the upper hand to an already embattled President Clinton. His Democratic Party had lost the US House in the 1994 elections to what then-Speaker Newt Gingrich’s called his “revolution” of the right. The Oklahoma City bombing shook public opinion enough to considerably slow what had been, prior, a juggernaut’s momentum by the Gingrich revolution, allowing Clinton to again claim the terrain of the political center.

That today’s atrocity occurs not under the helm of an embattled liberal president, but of one that enjoys 67 percent support, still, from the American people, will have even more devastating consequences for the cultural and political right that has placed abortion at the center of its agenda. There is no need to demonize them with a broad brush for it. The first immediate consequence of the assassination of Dr. Tiller will be that it virtually removes the political points to be scored by those who planned to wage an anti-choice argument against US Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor.

So if you’re one of those who thought this doctor ought to have been killed long ago, well, you’re a tactical moron. But you probably can’t help yourself, as Giordano notes:

I would also be very surprised if, in the coming days, some right-wing radio talkers and those from anti-choice organizations like Operation Rescue can’t help but make the sorts of outrageous statements about this act of terrorism that shock and provoke backlash from the American public. As a crew, they have already whipped themselves up into a mental state of frenzied derangement. The countdown now begins to find out which will shovel their own political graves over this one.

Well, the resident theologian at the severely conservative magazine William F, Buckley founded, the National Review, Princeton’s Robert P. George, tries to contain the damage:

Whoever murdered George Tiller has done a gravely wicked thing. The evil of this action is in no way diminished by the blood George Tiller had on his own hands. No private individual had the right to execute judgment against him. We are a nation of laws. Lawless violence breeds only more lawless violence. Rightly or wrongly, George Tiller was acquitted by a jury of his peers. “Vengeance is mine, says the Lord.” For the sake of justice and right, the perpetrator of this evil deed must be prosecuted, convicted, and punished. By word and deed, let us teach that violence against abortionists is not the answer to the violence of abortion. Every human life is precious. George Tiller’s life was precious. We do not teach the wrongness of taking human life by wrongfully taking a human life.

But over at Free Republic, those who leave comments are not going there:

What goes around comes around…

One less Nazi as far as I am concerned.

This isn’t good, boys and girls … not good at all. This serial-killer piece of excrement will be held up by every abortionist and every lover of abortionists as the reason why the Secret Service needs to be assigned to guard every abortionist, every abortion mill and every lover of abortions in this country.

Obama is going to take advantage of this murder to sieze [sic] even more control over our society. I would not even put it past them to commit this murder themselves, as an excuse to sieze [sic] power. Reichstag Fire, and all that…

No doubt this “man” is responsible for thousands, maybe tens-of-thousands of needless and wanton deaths. If you think his “passing” is a bad thing in the cause of speaking out and ending the practice of abortion, I don’t know what to tell you. I can only say that I shall not mourn his demise, nor shall I judge others.

Frankly, I don’t give a damn what they say. I suspect more people than would publicly admit it are glad Tiller is dead. I doubt there will be a lot of Doctors lining up to take over his practice.

Robert Stacy McCain, not related to Senator John McCain, and about as far right as you can get, is on the other side:

Sometimes, when the stubborn wickedness of a people offends God, the Almighty withholds His divine protection, permitting those sinners to have their own way, following the road to destruction so that they are subjected to evil rulers and unjust laws. Never, however, does the wise and faithful Christian resort to the kind of lawlessness practiced with such cruelty today in Kansas.

The two strands of thought here cannot come together. The opposition thought that things weren’t going well – and then they got worse, again.

But there is the James Joyce of Baltimore, Ta-Nehisi Coates:

I’ve been thinking so much this past week about the right’s rhetoric, in relation to Sotomayor – especially toward the end of the week when Rush Limbaugh said the following:

“How do you get promoted in a Barack Obama administration? By hating white people or even saying you do, or that they’re not good or put ’em down, whatever… make white people the new oppressed minority and they’re going right along with it because they’re shutting up. They’re moving to the back of the bus and I can’t use that drinking fountain, okay. I can’t use that restroom, okay.”

Anyone who knows anything about American history knows what lies at the end of this kind of rhetoric. Anyone who knows what “Redemption” is all about knows where this goes. We don’t have the luxury of thinking about these bilious hate-mongers as loonies running off the lip. People are dying. And these shameless goons are cashing checks. Disgusting. I’m sick over this.

But Bill O’Reilly will tell you it’s not his fault, as will Rush. And then it will get worse again.

About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
This entry was posted in Abortion Politics, Abortion Rights, Domestic Terrorism from the Right, George Tiller Murder, Liberal Tolerance, Operation Rescue, Ta-Nehisi Coates. Bookmark the permalink.

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