Not all overheated political rhetoric is alike. Delusional right-wing crazy talk -- the kind of ranting we've heard recently from washed-up rock star Ted Nugent and tea party-backed Rep. Allen West -- is a special kind of poison that cannot be safely ignored.
Let me be clear: I'm saying that the extreme language we hear from the far right is qualitatively different from the extreme language we hear from the far left -- and far more damaging to the ties that bind us as a nation. Tut-tutting that both sides should tone it down is meaningless. For all intents and purposes, one side is the problem.
Believe me, I would prefer not to dignify the ravings of Nugent or West by commenting on them. Nugent seems to be motivated by paranoia; West, perhaps by cynical calculation. It would be satisfying to withhold the attention they seek, but this is not an option. The only effective way to deal with bullies is to confront them.
Nugent, who delivered his foaming-at-the-mouth peroration at a National Rifle Association convention, earned a visit from the Secret Service with his promise that "if Barack Obama becomes the president in November again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year."
That might or might not constitute an actual threat to the president of the United States. More chilling, to me, was the way his audience of gun enthusiasts applauded in agreement as Nugent compared the Obama administration to a bunch of "coyotes in your living room" who deserve to be shot. Nugent ended by exhorting his listeners: "We are Braveheart. We need to ride into that battlefield and chop their heads off in November. Am I -- any questions?"
No, I think he made himself quite clear.
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