That Genie Won’t Go Back in the Bottle

No Telling

I’ve seen and heard an awful lot of hate lately, and it worries me. It should worry all of us.

John McCain made an attempt yesterday to quell a bit of that, but the attempt is late and doesn’t square with his campaign message. He’s between a rock and a . . . well, rock. One one hand he’s got to make Obama out to be the devil, and on the other – not devil enough to assassinate. Yes, that’s a strong word, but some folks out there are riled up and the Crowd is starting to sound like a Mob. Some people believe anything you tell them, and once they become suitably inflamed they don’t much like being told the devil’s not quite as bad as all that.

You don’t have to use a podium and a large hall to incite folks, either. I live next door to a sweet elderly woman who’s cornered me several times in the yard to discuss “that HUSSEIN Obama” while her nervous little dog pees in my grass. She’s convinced he’s a Muslim/terrorist/A-Rab/communist/Antichrist, and she’s genuinely afraid. Stirring up fear in people is one thing, but frightening old neighbor-ladies is an unforgivable sin. I try to avoid her on Wednesday nights after Bible Study and – of course – on Sunday evenings when her conspiracy fears seem to be most feverish. She’s never attended a political rally and probably never will, but that doesn’t stop her from knowing what she knows. She may watch FOX News, but she gets her real political information from the good people at church.

That, my friends, is a genie that can never go back into its bottle.

The Wednesday Night Bible Study group my neighbor-lady commiserates with will never cause a harm. To anyone. Ever. But there are those out there who who might. There are those out there who have, actually. Arkansas has its fair share of lunatics and I’m sure every other state can say the same.

It all goes back to my teaching mantra. I tell my students that in their essays and in life, the most important thing they will ever get right is to Know Their Audience. Words are powerful and require responsible wielding. I also tell my students that what they don’t say is just as important as what they do say. Just ask those folks up the road who were around when Faubus closed the schools. They’ll tell you all about the incendiary nature of irresponsible words and silences.

Working both sides of the aisle is going to be an even trickier business now, because McCain also has to work both sides of the pew as well. “Country First, “senator. Country. First.

9 thoughts on “That Genie Won’t Go Back in the Bottle

  1. I sure wish the church would get the hell outta my politics. They get people all foamed up at the mouth and then let them loose on the general public to do any number of horrific things in the name of God. My dad said the same thing about someone taking out Obama, and he figures it will be in Texas or Arkansas. Maybe Louisiana. I told him it could very well be Mississippi. I mean, I went to Ole Miss from 1993-1995 and they didn’t have that whole integration thing down just yet, so it could be. Anyway, he said I have to vote for him because A) he’s a Democrat and he’d disown me if I didn’t (like I wouldn’t anyway) and B) if someone took out John McCain we’d be stuck with Sarah Palin for the duration and MOTHER OF GOD what a mess because Grace could’ve answered the questions Charlie Gibson and Katie Couric asked her and Grace is only 11. It just makes me sad that a possible assassination is even something we have to consider and it makes me even more sad that it will probably happen down here. I took a lot of Nyquil. A LOT, so I’m sorry for the long, rambling mini-blog of my own.

  2. McCain wanted the Religious Right and now he has their support, their fear, their hatred to deal with. It’s not like they whipped up into this frenzy by themselves. I guess it’s a matter of winning at all costs. For someone who’d rather lose an election than lose a war, he seems fairly sure to start one rather than lose a few polling points.And I can’t even talk about Palin anymore. My disgust is beyond articulation right now.

  3. You need to talk to Mike’s wife, Cindy, about this. She is all fired up about the “call to violence,” and has been writing letters to the editor all this past week. This from a woman who says she’s been apolitical all her life but who says she just made her first donation to a political campaign this week–and it wasn’t to the one with Shoot First and Ask Questions Later Updo on the ticket. There’s a deep vein of hatred around these parts that is just scary. This is the first time in my residence below the mason dixson line (15 plus years) that I have heard the N word, repeatedly, and someone described as a “monkey.” Yes, you heard that right.What I am trying to console myself with is that these are words of fear and actually, desperation. The words of people who know that their power to spread hate and to control the surge toward change is actually limited in the face of what is actually a tsunami. . .Or so I hope.

  4. I’m convinced that the recent dial-back in the rhetoric (from McCain, anyway) was stemmed from the Secret Service having a come-to-Jesus talk with the Senator. Perhaps McCain forgets that the Secret Service protect him and Obama equally, and supporter calls of “Kill him,” “Bomb Obama,” and “Off with his head” are not heard with a smirk by the men with the earpieces.Have you noticed, though, that in the last few days the most inflammatory remarks at rallies have come from local folks during their introductory comments? The McCain campaign then sends out a quick press release stating that they do not condone the comments by the person not directly related to their campaign. But as you say, the genie is out of the bottle. What they’re doing is taking a defense-lawyer tactic: say something that you know will be objected to and sustained by the judge, then say, “Withdrawn”. The comment may have been stricken by the person in charge, but the people of the jury have heard it, and that’s all that matters.

  5. EXACTLY, Olivander. I imagine the Secret Service folks are beside themselves with this kind of hanky-panky. When the smoke clears, I hope one of them writes a book about it.The “withdrawn” tactic is transparent and smarmy. While it works in small courtrooms, this strategy comes off much uglier on a large scale.McCain is playing with fire and he’s letting Palin hold the sterno.

  6. I remember this feeling all too well. I also know how difficult it is to support Obama while in the South. i went home to visit and was pretty much under fire, and i had to keep a lot of opinions to myself as i was severely outnumbered. i just keep telling myself that the reasons I love these people have nothing to do with our political views.

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