Too many of us are becoming like that voracious plant in “Little Shop of Horrors,” spending all our waking hours just looking for things on which to feed our anger.
Sunday’s historic vote on health care reform was as dramatic television as any sporting event or episode of “24.” But the rhetoric still is smoldering, ratcheting up to the point where someone is going to get hurt.
We’ve had congressmen spat on and called derogatory names. Reasonable people with real concerns about reform’s costs are being dismissed as bigots, kooks and wing nuts. The Columbus Dispatch recently posted a video in which a man who claims to have Parkinson’s disease was taunted by anti-reformers who threw dollar bills in his face.
On Monday, a radio talk show host called those who voted for reform “bastards” who need to be “wiped out.”
I’m presuming he meant politically. But not everyone will. And therein lies the problem.
During the presidential election of 1800, Thomas Jefferson, a deist, was cast as an infidel who would allow wanton immorality and crime.
His opponent, John Adams, was accused of being a closet royalist and criticized for signing the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798.
The difference is that when your opponent called you a “big fat idiot” in 1800, the insult had to be cranked out on a printing press, then delivered on horseback, then maybe it landed in a newspaper, and by the time people read it, there was always a chance they no longer cared why you were called a big fat idiot.
The technology that produced photos of dead troops and charbroiled southern cities during the Civil War may have resulted in a better-informed electorate, but it also contributed to already boiling rhetoric that pegged Abraham Lincoln as a traitor even before he was elected.
Today, the Internet fosters fear and insanity in real time.
It is the technological equivalent of the man-eating plant in “Little Shop of Horrors,” demanding to be fed more and more blood.
Free speech is the life of any republic. From the barbershop to the factory floor, it’s our most cherished freedom.
But there’s a difference between being a brash young country and being a childish one.
Too many of us are becoming like that voracious potted plant, spending all our waking hours just looking for things on which to feed our anger.
If you’re unhappy with your representative, vote against him or her in the next election, write letters to the editor, campaign for the opposition — better yet, run yourself — but don’t contribute to the rising tide of hateful and violent rhetoric.
Charita Goshay writes for The Repository in Canton, Ohio. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.