I'm concerned about the coming weeks and months. I worry that my country is headed for some serious internal strife.
A man who appears equipped to be a true uniter, a man who gives me more hope for the future than I have had in years, stands poised to win a solid majority of the popular vote and a veritable landslide in the Electoral College, yet I fear bitter violence between Americans. I fear riots in the streets, and worse.
There are two scenarios that trouble me. In the first, Barack Obama wins the landslide he deserves, and there is rejoicing in the streets. Confined perhaps at first to urban areas, there is raucous celebration into the night. But not everyone is happy. In particular, the right-wing militia groups and just plain everyday rednecks - the ones Sarah Palin has been busily whipping into a frenzy, those she has convinced that Obama is a racist, a terrorist, and a traitor, the ones who scream "kill him" at her rallies - are mightily pissed off. And they also take to the streets. Unlike the revelers, this bunch shows up armed and looking for a fight. The confrontations turn ugly, and mob-on-mob violence ensues. In normal times, this would not go very far, because cooler heads would prevail; only a small right-wing fringe would participate in the backlash. But the McCain-Palin campaign and their allies in the right-wing echo chamber have so demonized the left, and stirred up so much out-and-out hatred, there's all too good a chance this could escalate way out of control.
In the other scenario, John McCain - against all odds and in defiance of both advance polling and exit polls - pulls off the incredible upset. This time it's just too much to be swallowed even by the hitherto hypnotized public. People across the country take to the streets to protest the theft of yet another presidential election. Bolstered by evidence of electronic vote tampering, enraged by the voter-suppression tactics that prevented millions of Americans from voting at all, they march and chant and demonstrate - the vast majority of them peacefully - and the government response comes in the form of phalanxes of militarized police in full riot gear, rounding up the protesters and hauling them away for "rioting in furtherance of terrorism." This brings even more and angrier people into the streets in defiance of the government crackdown. Again, the well-armed and well-agitated right-wing loonies join the fray; and again, it escalates out of control.
This is the disaster that the right wing flirts with when they demonize the opposition. No matter the official results of the election, they have conditioned so may people on one side to hate those with whom they disagree that at least some of them are bound to bring that hatred to the surface in the form of violence against the evil liberals. Will it escalate to full-blown civil war? I hope not, but I don't rule it out. Will there be violence? Count on it.
It is very much to Barack Obama's credit that he spent thirty minutes on Wednesday night talking about the issues, about the problems Americans face and about what he plans to do about them, without ever once mentioning George W. Bush, John McCain, or Sarah Palin. It is vastly to his credit that he stops crowds at his rallies if they stoop to booing McCain or Palin, telling them "you don't have to boo, just vote." And it is to the eternal shame of the GOP and the McCain-Palin campaign, and their hate-mongering tools in the right-wing media, that their whole argument consists of telling people that liberals are anti-American, anti-freedom, pro-terrorism, and generally evil beings who want to destroy America. In so doing, they are fomenting hatred and inciting violence. And when that violence comes to pass, the blood will be on their hands.
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