I was sickened this week by a political ad in a way that I've not ever been. I need to get something off my chest.
The NRA launched an ad that comes as close to calling for violent civil war as I've ever seen in America. One conservative columnist, Anne Applebaum, denounced the ad. See that quote and the full text of the ad here.
As you watch, it will be painfully apparent not only that the spokeswoman is setting up a false boogeyman on the left, but that she is laying out an argument that there are two Americas --one which is fair and righteous and one that is somehow controlled by the left.
Here are some straw men from the ad:
"They use their media to assassinate real news. They use their schools to teach children that their president is another Hitler. They use their movie stars and singers and comedy shows and award shows to repeat their narrative over and over again. And then they use their ex-president to endorse the resistance."
The left controls the news? Really? It assassinates? Heck of a choice of words. Fox news, conservative talk radio and Breitbart have no influence in America?
According to The Hill, Fox news had more market share than CNN and MSNBC combined in February --and that's not unusual.
The idea that the left controls schools is absurd in an education environment where typically privatized education is at an all-time high --let alone that there is a mass indoctrination going on. However, what is truly a mark of the division the ad seeks to sew is the term "their ex-president." Its a classic line to turn "us" in to "us and them."
In the ad, all of this is laid over arresting images of protests, shown as if every protest from the left ends in violence and ignoring the issues that people are legitimately concerned about.
I think I can safely say that I'm pretty active politically and I can tell you that every protest I've been to calls for nonviolence. Every protest organizer I work with seeks to replicate the nonviolent tactics of Martin Luther King Jr.
That does not mean that there are not people on the left who are violent, just as there are on the right. We know that there are. What it means is that we all --on the right and left-- must reject such violence. The opposite of what the NRA is doing. Period.
The NRA is setting the stage for some ill-informed person to justify lashing out against this over-hyped threat with his or her many NRA-blessed armaments. That is when innocent people die.
The most alarming line in this ad is the line that we must hold the NRA accountable for the next time there is political violence from the right. It says, "The only way we stop this, the only way we save our country and our freedom, is to fight this violence of lies with the clenched fist of truth."
Really? No other way? There's no nonviolent way to stop "this" --even though the "this" is a hyped-up monster under the bed. But, even if it were, is fighting with a clenched fist really a long-term solution? You can't use an open hand of truth with your own countrymen and women? Its not possible to have dialogue? Does the NRA believe that opportunity is past? What would Jesus do?
I would tell anybody of any political persuasion that violence like that which is encouraged in this video will not solve our problems. Period.
I believe I speak from a point of knowledge.
Many of you know that I worked in Sarajevo for a couple years at the end of the war, which tore Yugoslavia apart. I also watched closely as it unfolded, prior to going there.
What was striking then is just as striking now: people did not believe that their fellow countrymen would go "that far" --would cross the line. But the more their leaders flirted with tribalism and used language like that in the ad, the closer they got. Until it was too late.
I saw the results personally. About 100,000 dead, homes riddled with bullets and mortar shells, countless displaced people, generations of families lost.
This is not a movie. This does not end well. We need to back away from the precipice.
I will never stop organizing the type of peaceful political action that was central to the We the People Summit last weekend. But, I will make a concerted effort to build more dialogue skill building in to future summits. After all, our panel discussion on how to have civil dialogue was the second largest attended panel of the day. There is a demand for these tools.
Further, I will be more cognizant of when people I encounter begin to use this dangerous language, and I will make a point to say something.
If I have not been vocal enough in the past in this regard, I apologize and I will do better.
So, this 4th of July, as we debate our friends and family around the barbecue or while waiting for fireworks to start, let's think about dialogue.
I'm not saying that we should validate the message of the NRA with a call for dialogue. They are clearly wrong here. But we all need to do more (me included) to talk to the people who see this video and who might be tempted toward its simplistic solutions.
After all, I know we'd all rather the fireworks that we watch every July remain a symbol for battles of the past, instead of a sign of battles to come.
News Around the District
1) Please SAVE THE DATE for my July 15th LD 24 Family event at McFate Brewery in Scottdale. This is a Saturday, family-friendly event. Its a fundraiser for the campaign, but also a celebration of our success at the We the People Summit. Can you join us? Please RSVP at this link.
2) The LD24 Dems meet every second Thursday of the month at 7pm. Stay tuned to this Facebook page for updates. Since the attendance has grown, we may move to a new location.
1) I've been working to reform redistricting for a long time. I'm a bit of nerd on the issue. It was amazing to see that the largest panel attendance at the We the People Summit was for the panel on redistricting. Clearly, people see the problems in the system. This is an interesting article that details who has benefited the most recently in redistricting. The theories outlined here are part of the case that the Supreme Court is taking up and will rule on in October. The theory being that non-competitive seats have become so extreme in America that people's voting rights have been denied based on their party affiliation. In my opinion, both parties have been pushing us away from competitive districts, and we need that to change if our political system is to survive.
2) The We the People Summit got a little press. It was nice to see, since we did not go out of our way to get press. Just sayin'.