It was scary enough when some people showed up at town hall meetings last summer with loaded guns. But those seemed like isolated incidents. Now, however, even the unarmed tea partiers are resorting to more and more extreme displays of bigotry and hate.
Over the weekend, tea partiers gathered outside the Capitol to protest the health care reform bill. Only this time they weren't just hurling ill-informed talking points. This time they were hurling hate speech -- and worse.
In the Huffington Post, Sam Stein described the scene as follows:
Preceding the president's speech to a gathering of House Democrats, thousands of protesters descended around the Capitol to protest the passage of health care reform. The gathering quickly turned into abusive heckling, as members of Congress passing through Longworth House office building were subjected to epithets and even mild physical abuse.Is this behavior really all a reaction to the fact that insurance companies will no longer be able to rip us off based on pre-existing conditions? That, I think is unlikely.
A staffer for Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) told reporters that Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) had been spat on by a protestor. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a hero of the civil rights movement, was called a 'ni--er.' And Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) was called a "f*ggot," as protestors shouted at him with deliberately lisp-y screams. Frank, approached in the halls after the president's speech, shrugged off the incident.
But Clyburn was downright incredulous, saying he had not witnessed such treatment since he was leading civil rights protests in South Carolina in the 1960s.
While a lot of this behavior is surely based on their mindless acceptance of the right-wing fear-inducing propaganda, I suspect it has even more to do with the fact that we now have a black man in the White House -- a black man with an exotic name in charge of this country. It scares the hell out of them.
The problem is that some bigots can be very, very dangerous, especially when they are frightened. And that is even scarier than the fact that they can vote.