Along the Tracks

Monday, July 25, 2005

More on the Pfc. Hines family

There was a background story from the Associated Press today about the Cincinnati-area soldier who died of injuries sustained in Iraq, and whose family suffered torment at the hands of some repellant low-lifes.

It seems the soldier's wife is just two weeks from her due date for their second child.

The flag-burning incident took place at the wife's parents' home. Either the attackers knew the family well enough to know the home of the in-laws and the day of the funeral - or else it was a monumentally horrible coincidence that their despicable acts should strike at such a painful moment for one family.

In response to one of the comments below, I'd like to point out again that I do not place blame for criminal acts of others on those liberals who have gone bonkers in their rhetoric. Indeed, there are people on the right like Phelps, about whom I've written before, who also act in criminal fashion based on their warped beliefs - remember Timothy McVeigh?

I'll have to go back and check my work, but I recall writing a column similarly critical of some right-wing commentators at the time of the Oklahoma City bombing - Gordon Liddy in particular. However, there was an attempt by many liberals, Bill Clinton included, to paint any criticism of his administration or government in general with that same broad brush of "stoking the fires." I'm sure we all recall the events of this past spring, when some Democrats accused Tom Delay and other Republicans of creating an atmosphere in which violence against judges would be acceptable to some, based on their critical comments on the courts.

In both the above cases, I do not recall any respected public officials making comments which could be construed to dehumanize the subject in question. The key words, obviously, are "public officials." Commentators say a lot of things, a fair amount of them irresponsible. However, they do not speak from positions of authority and so their level of influence is limited. Public officials are a different matter. They enjoy the mantle of authority which comes from their offices, be they appointed or elected.

When Michael Moore accuses American soldiers of Nazi tactics, I'm annoyed and the fringe left is energized, but only a complete wacko would consider Moore's words as authoritative.

However, when a senator or representative or party official makes such statements, it carries real weight. It injures the spirit of those on the receiving end (soldiers, FBI and CIA agents, etc.) and those who support them (most Americans). It also changes the perceptions of those who already agree with the statement: Suddenly, their dehumanization of the opponent is legitimized. What was once a psychological leap - doing harm to the opponent - becomes a small step.

Those already on the fringe take that step.

As a final note, I saw Dick Durbin on "Meet the Press" yesterday. Tim Russert asked him about any reflections he'd had in the month or so since his comments. He repeated his non-apology for mispeaking and for offending some, then charged back into an attack on military detentions. In other words, Durbin had the opportunity to make clear he catagorically apologized for ever equating Americans with Nazis and the like; he chose instead to equivocate.

I'm sure that's exactly what the Cincinnati flag burners hoped to hear.

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