I was all set to call for conservatives to do some seriously overdue soul-searching and tone down their hostile, hateful, borderline-homicidal rhetoric, but decided, to be on the safe side, to do some personal soul-searching first.
And I was extremely annoyed to discover that I, too, had engaged in a little of what New York Times columnist Paul Krugman calls “eliminationist rhetoric.” So a few mea culpas are in order.
On Jan. 27, 2010 (“A tough week for hope”), after a particularly bad week for democracy in this country (when it looked as if health care reform was dead and the Supreme Court had declared that unlimited corporate bribery during election campaigns was a synonym for “free speech”), I was so thoroughly discouraged that I wrote, “Maybe Justice Antonin Scalia or his trigger fish, Justice Clarence Thomas, will keel over before 2012 so the balance of the court can be shifted back to center.” I really don’t wish them any harm, and admittedly should have used the word “retire” instead of “keel over,” but I knew these two would never retire, certainly not before 2012, so I’m guilty in my despair of momentarily hoping for clogged arteries. Mea culpa — though I should point out that in my very next sentence I wrote, “if you’re reduced to hoping for someone’s death to save your country, things are probably too far gone anyway.”
On Feb. 11, 2009, I wrote a column titled, “Praise Lincoln, bury Republicans.” I didn’t mean all Republicans or even certain select Republicans. I meant “a party whose demise is hard-earned and long overdue.” I was, of course, calling for a much-needed metaphorical “death” for the current party, which has done so much harm in the last 30 years to the country I love. Again, in my very next sentence, I wrote about “a party that needs to be reborn. Someone should speak for true conservatives and represent the best impulses of traditionalism. The current Republican Party is not that party.”
Still, I regret using “bury Republicans” in the title of the column. Mea culpa.
And approximately 10 years ago, we ran some letters in this section (of which I was the editor), highly critical of our conservative columnist at that time, Kathryn Kircher, and, carelessly, we ran her column photo with a bull’s-eye superimposed. I deeply regret that one, especially in light of the recent mass shooting in Arizona. Readers rightly jumped on it, and we learned our lesson.
I recruited Kathryn, by the way, just as I recruited Virginia Seuffert, both of whom did a fine job in my opinion, both of whom I like, even though I agreed with almost nothing they wrote for us. But I have always believed we need a good strong conservative viewpoint in this paper. It’s been a few months, but I’m sure we’ll find a new voice sooner than later. Last I heard, by the way, Kathryn and her husband were doing missionary work in China.
If I’ve missed anything else, I’m sure readers will tell me. Despite my severe (and entirely justified) criticism of George W. Bush, I never wished him bodily harm (in print or in thought). I still don’t. I want him to live a long life so he can read what historians say about his abysmal presidency.
Do I think conservatives need to do some soul-searching about their overheated rhetoric with its allusions to “Second Amendment remedies” and “don’t retreat, reload”? Yes I do, but it won’t do any good to say so because conservatives get quite vexed about being told what to do. No one ever searched his soul because someone told him he should. It’s entirely up to those who spew their vile bile and all those who listen to them, thereby making them fabulously wealthy and influential.
A colleague here at the paper pointed out that Sarah Palin’s phony baloney “fireside chat” video was released the same day as President Obama’s remarks at the memorial service in Tucson. Palin’s speech he noted, was “all about me.” Obama’s was “all about us.”
I’ll go with “us” and take to heart my president’s admonishment to “pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds.”
From now on I’ll try to do better.