Talk is never cheap …
nor are hyperbolic and belligerent writings … not in 2008 during a campaign … and not now.
“September 12, 2008
BILL MOYERS:Welcome to the Journal.How ugly will it get?
… the American author Oliver Wendell Holmes said that language is sacred, and wrote that its abuse should be as criminal as murder. He called it “verbicide”…violent treatment of a word with fatal results to its legitimate meaning…”
America has yet to make “verbicide” a hanging offense. Indeed under the First Amendment guarantee of free speech, pretty much anything goes. There are some limits — Holmes’ son was the Supreme Court justice who noted in a famous opinion that you cannot falsely shout fire in a crowded theater. That’s because words have consequences and not just in politics.
People in Knoxville, Tennessee, are asking if one of those consequences could be murder. Our correspondent Rick Karr traveled there to investigate. Let me warn you — some of the language you’ll hear is graphic, provocative and downright raw.
RICK KARR: On a steamy Sunday morning in July a man armed with a twelve-gauge shotgun burst into this church in Knoxville, Tennessee and opened fire. Seconds later, one person lay dead, another mortally wounded, and six injured.
…Police said that he told them “that all liberals should be killed … because they were … ruining the country, and that he felt that the Democrats had tied his country’s hands in the war on terror and … ruined every institution in America….”
REVEREND CHRIS BUICE: The man who walked into this sanctuary on July 27th was armed with a gun but he was also armed with hatred, he was armed with bitterness, he was armed with resentments, he was armed with indiscriminate anger. He was armed in body and spirit.
I watched again Bill Moyers’ review of the Tennessee Church murders (2008) where a man influenced by long-time vilification of liberals as everything from political traitors to persons who are not human and in need of extermination.
That would be me … some who has – among other social attitudes – an admitted liberal perspective. But also someone who has no self-accusing sense that I deserve extermination – particularly at the hands of someone hypnotized by liars.
We know which liars don’t we?
The ones who imply that liberals are sub-human and less worthy than radical self-named “conservatives.” Many of these are tragic people who in reality have become pawns in a political battle. They’ve compliantly accepted someone else’s mass-issued value judgments – “values” that ought to have no place in churches that profess a relationship with “the living God and Christ Jesus” as someone recently said to me.
I consider myself an active spiritual human being – not liberal and not conservative – but one trying to include Jesus’ God of Compassion in how I approach life. I flat out disagree with any who somehow believe the Jesus was a social conservative and that He taught that wealth is a sign of God’s favor or disfavor.
I see nothing in His words that even suggests that political conservatism is equal to godliness. Social conservatives tend to think of themselves as “optimists” in wordage that smacks of self-righteousness – the sort of prayerful pride portrayed by Jesus in Luke:
God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.
Speaking then in terms of what actually amounts to free-market religious capitalism, these supposed religious economic experts equate conservatism to a willingness to work; that a willingness to work is more naturally present in the socially and politically conservative mind.
A liberal mind, in this regard, must be lazy – but not too lazy to be working hard to get something for nothing. The whole point then suggests strongly that productivity as a spiritual test has to do with the self-proclaimed attribute of industriousness and self-reliance driven by political philosophy.
Apparently one must not be able to be industrious, self-reliant or contribute to the overall national well-being if one has liberal thoughts.
In that regard, I ask about the greatest evangelical conservative self-publicizers who have enriched themselves by merely talking about work, industry, and the spiritual efficacy of hard work. They have enriched themselves through talk and promises, all the time waiting for someone else to send them money …
Espousing the religious free-market system, political evangelical talking points emphasize the primacy of people needing to take personal initiative and work towards achieving self-support and self-reliance.
Good ideas, but not particularly applicable when explained by the self-righteous as necessary in a society that blindly worships and believes the American economy is actually based on universal free-market opportunity, participation and competition. This admirable view also only makes conservative sense if one believes in an imaginary cookie-cut world where each and every soul is identical in ability, potential and circumstance.
That such a world does not exist seems to mean little to folks bent on self-serving justifications for defending themselves against those of us who would criticize their judgmental minds and question their degree of genuine compassion. Having equated liberalism as giving away the economic farm to those who are lazy and refuse to contribute, many who deem themselves social conservatives have accepted the liberal straw man spawned out of talk show and talking-points propaganda.
Lazy refusers-to-contribute come defined by all sorts of social attitudes. However, in my professional experience as a social worker in the public assistance system, the more outspoken among the lazy are those who describe themselves as “conservative” and who blindly insist that they would work if immigrants, other minorities or the crooked poor had not stolen their jobs.
Someone has certainly made available to these souls that which they assume is justifiable vindication of their own laziness.
Such “conservatives” have always run afoul of Christian teachings and historical practices of honest, love-based charity that intends in its acts practices of love, compassion and generosity. The conservative idea of charity seems to limit itself to determining just who might qualify as the “worthy poor.”
The “worthy poor” are the poor defined by publicity-minded social conservatives as those toward whom measured and tight-fisted conservative charity will bring the greatest public rewards to the givers, not the receivers … those charity cases that will drive up production, prices and CEO bonuses.
Such is the precise hypocrisy described in the Sermon – acting publicly to be seen by others as righteous.
When a conservative quotes the old proverb
“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day — teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime,”
the twist to this is that all who do not know how to fish, have insufficient resources to fish, or do not live near a fishing hole may be given –through genuine conservative morality – two loaves and seven fishes; and that’s all. A conservative’s duty to charity has been met.
“We told you how to fish and it isn’t our problem if you have no boat, don’t know how to build one and have to go fishing from your wheel chair. Now show some initiative!”
According to conservative propagandists, liberal ideology reveals in its thinking a version of government that is overly generous and that exercises far too much compassion on behalf of it’s citizens.
These propagandists insist that government can actually and with confidence hand off the compassion obligation to everyone else. A nation of compassionate conservative citizens will take care of our own poor “privately” through altruistic compassion – the very attribute of liberal social justice that they themselves seem to oppose.
There aren’t enough compassionate conservatives among us who have demonstrated the validity of this particular notion.
Free-market capitalism by definition is opposed to such a notion since aggressive competitiveness underlies any ability of the market to provide affordable whatevers to the populace.
An economic bottom-line theology would never permit giving away all one has – as Jesus suggested – to help the poor without a consideration for turning a profit; perhaps even getting a receipt for the willing and faith-based donation as proof to God of one’s goodness.
If among social conservatives there is such a massive compassion, why would we ever encounter a single mother with a food assistance card in the grocery store?
If her full time minimum-wage job won’t pay living expenses and feed her children at the same time, what would an ideal generous and altruistic social conservative do about that?
What happens most of the time is an almost whispered declaration that she somehow deserves her lot because economic and religious free-market politics says God expects her to succeed to self-reliant mode all on her own faith and initiative.
If a conservative wants to teach someone to fish, rather than give away a fish – which apparently is so repulsive – what harm would there be in some evangelical hero stepping forward and hiring that single mother who is willing to work, but paying her twice the minimum wage as long as she works hard?
Couldn’t do that for everybody?
Then why make public insistence in the holiness of godly conservative free-market hypocrisy that such is possible and that generous citizens will do so?
I may be wrong, but I seriously doubt that the Living God and Christ Jesus would proudly pat the self-interested purveyors of social and political stinginess on their tiny little minds and say,
“Well done thou good and faithful servant.”
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