Seeds of Hatred

"What a man sow shall he reap -

And you know that talk is cheap..."

- Bob Marley

John McCain was right in August when he called John Lewis one of the "wisest people" he knew.

So when Representative Lewis - a Georgia Democrat and veteran of the civil rights movement - recently denounced
the McCain/Palin campaign for its use of divisive rhetoric and said the
negative tone of the Republican presidential campaign reminded him of
the hateful atmosphere that segregationist Governor George Wallace
fostered in Alabama in the 1960s, he was calling it like it is.

I have been writing, speaking and blogging extensively of late about
the hate speech epidemic in America, which has been mostly playing out
on the airwaves of shock jock talk radio.
Knowing the tenor of the times, I was unsurprised when the tone of the
presidential campaign veered into similar territory. The truth is that
Lewis simply called it like it is when he said McCain and running mate
Sarah Palin were ''sowing the seeds of hatred and division, and there
is no need for this hostility in our political discourse.'' Rather than
rejecting his remarks as ''shocking and beyond the pale,'' McCain
should have listened to Lewis, who is one of three people the Arizona
Senator said he would "rely heavily on" if elected president.

Lewis was also right that the fear and loathing being expressed on
the campaign trail in 2008 is frighteningly similar to that of the dark
days of 1968. Those of us who were around at the time remember well
what happened then, shortly after the hate speaking began. As Lewis
noted, ''George Wallace never threw a bomb. He never fired a gun, but
he created the climate and the conditions that encouraged vicious
attacks against innocent Americans who were simply trying to exercise
their constitutional rights.... Because of this atmosphere of hate, four
little girls were killed on Sunday morning when a church was bombed in
Birmingham, Alabama.''

Instead of being viewed through the partisan prism of the heated
presidential campaign, Lewis' statement should instead serve, as he
said as "a reminder to all Americans that toxic language can lead to
destructive behavior." So when McCain and Palin supporters shout
''traitor,'' ''terrorist,'' ''treason,'' ''liar'' and even ''off with
his head'' at campaign stops in reference to Barack Obama - and when
reporters are threatened and castigated with racist remarks - it's time
for all truly patriotic Americans to stand up and speak out. Instead,
McCain denounced Lewis' remarks as "shocking and beyond the pale."
But it has really been his campaign - and his running mate Sarah
"Beyond the" Palin - who have stepped over the line of acceptable
political discourse by floating absurd charges such as the laughable
one that Obama has been as ''palling around with terrorists.'' After
all, terrorists present a mortal threat to this country - and we all
know what happens to them when they're finally caught...

So it doesn't take a genius, or a lot of imagination, to think of what could happen next. Remember the recent shooting
at the Unitarian-Universalist church in Knoxville? Remember the 1968
shooting at the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis?? And the subsequent one at
the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles??? I certainly do! That's why I
believe the wise man John Lewis when he points out that the
McCain/Palin ticket is "playing with fire." And as the late political
analyst Robert Nesta Markey once aptly remarked, "Catch a fire - you're
gonna get burned!"

So please, John McCain: You're better than that! Stop the hate
speech before it's too late. If not, I fear the fire next time may
consume us all for decades to come...

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