July 30, 2008
I Dreamed I Had a Bull's-Eye on My Back
By Mary Lyon
Dear Messers O'Reilly, Hannity, and Savage,
Congratulations. You sure did it this time. You're the New Century answer to J.D. Salinger, now that an admirer/acolyte of yours has gunned down two people and injured several others in a senseless assault at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church. You must be so proud.
"Still seized three books from Adkisson's home, including "The O'Reilly Factor," by television commentator Bill O'Reilly; "Liberalism is a Mental Disorder," by radio personality Michael Savage; and "Let Freedom Ring," by political pundit Sean Hannity."
It reminds me of the chilling correlation between John Lennon's assassin, Mark David Chapman, and the copy of Salinger's teenage-alienation novel "The Catcher in the Rye" that Chapman had been reading before he exterminated the musical icon, saying he was living inside that book at that time.
Full disclosure: I am a liberal. I do not apologize for it, because I'm tremendously proud of it. And I know that, having said that, it's probably open season on me in some corners of the country now.
I'm not advocating censorship - at least not that which is applied from external sources. I do, however, want to hang this latest massacre around the necks of the Fox News Twin Towers of Intolerance, and their hate-mongering radio pal. This is what screeds like theirs hath wrought, and it's time somebody said so, directly. If the three of them were standing in front of me, I might be tempted to grab each of these bullies by the shoulders and shake them, and ask them point-blank if they realize what their venomous words are stirring up.
There are people in this country, on the air at the moment in prominent positions of national exposure, who would convince you that I have a mental illness because I subscribe to the liberal viewpoint. The success that Michael Savage has enjoyed with his own repulsively-titled diatribe only serves to reinforce. It pays well to promote hatred. They've written books about how horrible and un-American I am because I'm a liberal, how my patriotism is suspect because I try to be tolerant of other faith-related views than mine, how my beliefs are laughable because I think government can, at times, be helpful to large groups of people who are poor, outcast, persecuted, kicked to the corner, when they're genuinely unable to help themselves through no fault of their own. I'm regarded as near-criminal because I won't march in mindless lockstep to their world view, and because I believe everyone has a right to live without persecution even if I disagree with them (and that includes conservatives).
And that's a bad thing? So bad it could get me killed?
Again, I'm not calling for censorship here. Liberals believe in the right to speak out. I guess what I feel a compelling need for, here, is some self-restraint on the part of the O'Reillys, Hannitys, and Savages of this nation. Unfortunately it's salacious, attention-getting, and lucrative to stir things up the way these individuals do. There are people in this country who would buy those books and study them, and then feel motivated to take up arms against someone like me because they don't like the way I think. They would leave my husband a widower, my children motherless, my best friend without a close pal she's had since fourth grade. Saddest of all, they'd probably think they'd done good.
I'm sure each of those "big three" would loudly bray that they had nothing to do with it. They'd protest their innocence of being able to influence a Jim David Adkisson to go to such deadly extremes. But they don't issue such demonizing condemnations of the liberal viewpoint in a vacuum. I'm sure they and their representatives know what power and influence they exert. Do they ever take the next step and consider what kind of hatred and violence they incite?
Because that is exactly what they do, whether they admit it or not. That is what results. Hawking hatred and intolerance in every media arena available, around the clock, has an impact. It has consequences. Unfortunately, it does not fall on deaf - or apathetic - ears. It creates and promotes an environment in which such negative feelings gain validation and credibility. They become okay, even commonplace, no big deal. After all, they're just saying. It's just talk, you know, to boost ratings, stir things up, get the party started. If they manage to inflame the passions of a Jim Adkisson, well, that's just the cost of doing business.
But there's a greater cost by far.
Jim Adkisson is charged in the slaying of Greg McKendry, 60, of Knoxville. Police said he also killed 61-year-old Linda Kraeger during the 10:18 a.m. Sunday attack at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church, 2931 Kingston Pike.
Hysterically hyperbolic chatter-fiends like the O'Reillys, Hannitys, and Savages of today's conservative media have made it okay to view people you disagree with, mainly of the liberal persuasion, like veritable enemies of the state. When they screech to the point of near maniacal orgasm, relentlessly portraying liberals as vile and subhuman, how can anyone not expect some frenzied audience member to act out in an attempt to "solve the problem" and "settle" things once and for all? In this day and age, we'd be lucky if all we had to endure was a daily "two-minute hate," instead of a perpetual anti-liberal barrage from almost every book shelf, newsstand, talk radio station, and a vast majority of cable TV.
Yes, even conservative extremists appreciate at least this much freedom of speech. Ours is still described as a free country, where the likes of O'Reilly, Hannity, and Savage, and all their friends can publicly spew any kind of political vomit they want. I'd guess that the UUC killings will do little to motivate them to start pulling at least a few of their punches, or to appeal to their fans' better angels not to take out their political frustrations on innocent strangers.
Bill, Sean, Michael, it's me here, shaking you by the shoulders. For the Love of God, stop and think before you run off at the mouth so viciously yet again. You have, in effect, put a target on the backs of every liberal in this country. And the blood of Greg McKendry and Linda Kraeger is on your hands already.