The political climate in North Carolina is reaching dangerous levels with disturbing reports of overzealous and misguided citizens crossing the line between activism and criminal acts. While many voters view this election as historic and significant, the state is split with regard to which candidate they support. There should be no reason that we can not have a civil political discourse to solve the problems facing our state and our country. Unfortunately, North Carolina has not fared well in behaving civilly this election cycle.
There are many degrees of inappropriate behavior in politicking, but the root cause of said behavior is holding the opposing party in contempt. We as a nation cannot truly progress so long as there exists a critical mass of partisan peoples who feel the need to demonize one another. This is not to say partisan politics are inherently bad, but blind partisanship that is driven by malice and contempt is a sad state of affairs and potentially dangerous.
Every election cycle we hear reports of political yard signs being stolen or vandalized. This election cycle is no different. The solution for many is to make another donation to their campaign of choice and replace the sign, recognizing that this minor offense is juvenile and ineffective.
Recently, North Carolina has been getting some bad press for much more notable offenses, although some would say it is the press that is bad. Take for instance the journalist who was assaulted at the Palin rally at Elon University on October 17th. Perhaps stirred by the accusatory tone of the GOP ticket, one McCain/ Palin supporter took on the “gotcha” media himself. Here is an excerpt from the journalist, Joe Killian:
The man began to say something about how of course I was interviewing the Obama people when suddenly, from behind us, the sound of a pro-Obama rap song came blaring out of the windows of a dorm building. We all turned our heads to see Obama signs in the windows.
This was met with curses, screams and chants of “U.S.A” by McCain-Palin folks who crowded under the windows trying to drown it out and yell at the person playing the stereo.
It was a moment of levity in an otherwise very tense situation and so I let out a gentle chuckle and shook my head.
“Oh, you think that’s funny?!” the large bearded man said. His face was turning red. “Yeah, that’s real funny…” he said.
And then he kicked the back of my leg, buckling my right knee and sending me sprawling onto the ground.
At a McCain rally in Concord, NC this past Saturday, October 18th, Rep. Robin Hayes (R-N.C.) offered his own take on hateful politics with the following divisive statement, which Hayes denied until audio surfaced forcing him to admit his error.
“Liberals hate real Americans that work and accomplish and achieve and believe in God.”
This past Sunday, October 19th, Obama visited Fayetteville. While the supporters were in the rally listening to speeches, 30 vehicles had their tires slashed. Following the rally, Barack visited The Cape Fear BBQ and Chicken Restaurant to meet with voters. While obviously everyone in the restaurant was not an Obama supporter, most were civil, with the exception of 54 yr. old Diane Fanning who began yelling: “Socialist, socialist, socialist -– get out of here!” The report also details that Fanning refused to shake Obama’s hand, passing up a perfect opportunity to civilly confront the Senator, and referred to Colin Powell as a RINO (Republican In Name Only) over his Obama endorsement and sincere frustration with the low road taken by the McCain camp. Across town, county officials opened two early vote locations, usually closed on Sunday, to deal with the overflow from the rally, thereby infuriating the NC GOP. Voters that day had to deal with jeers from across the street, as can be seen in the video below.
The following day, Oct. 20th, a dead bear cub was discovered with Obama signs draped over it in Cullowhee, NC at Western Carolina University. The 75 lb.cub had been shot in the head.
Aside from the signs being stolen by supporters from both parties, all the examples cited above reflect very negatively on the GOP. Arguably, these incidents could be attributed to the tone of the McCain campaign itself, its frustration and negative portrayal of the Obama ticket trickling down to some enthusiastic supporters who become more angry than optimistic, more destructive than constructive. This is not to imply that Republicans are inherently mean-spirited, their values of small government and the pursuit of liberty are honorable. Likewise,this is not to imply Democrats are not capable of possessing a very similar anger and prejudice. Many Obama supporters publicly have fallen in line with their candidate’s high road philosophy, although it is evident some secretly harbor a malcontent toward Republicans. Anger begets hate, hate begets violence. Through civil discourse and empathy, we can ensure Raleigh never sees a display like the anarchists’ attack on the NC GOP headquarters in 2004, in which a hooded mob carrying torches threw a burning Bush-Kerry effigy through the office window. It is easy to disapprove such actions, but difficult to prevent the political climate that fosters such radical reactions.
As we head to the polls in this final stretch, please remember that voting is more than a privilege. Voting is a civil right that came with a great cost, a right that is still challenged today. Please do not trivialize that right with contempt for your fellow Americans. Agree to disagree. Find your common ground. Move forward and stop the hate.
Update: The examples cited in this article occurred in NC over the course of one week prior to publication. While these examples negatively reflect on McCain supporters, or more appropriately Obama opposers, it is not intended to imply that McCain opposers do not commit similar inappropriate acts. We see dispicable acts on both sides of the issues in national news, such as the ones I linked to in the conclusion. Please post more examples of uncivil politics here, but please, lets keep the focus on the political climate in NC .
Photo by: http://flickr.com/people/pimkie_fotos/