Friday, July 4, 2008

To Dissolve the Bands of Hatred

The late Senator Jesse Helms once said, "the Lord will not make me impossible of error. All I've had to offer you is the total dedication in serving you as best I know how. And I've always leveled with you, and always will, knowing full well that everyone will not agree with me." Helms' uttered these words years too late, coming in a 1984 campaign debate, after decades of bigoted, racist, hate speech.

Railing against minorities--mainly African-Americans, though he did not limit his tirades against Hispanics, Planned Parenthood, gays, Atheists, socialists, Japanese-Americans, communists, and Ted Kennedy (certainly not in that order, though I've often wondered who Senator Helms held in higher contempt, Ted Kennedy or Planned Parenthood)--Jesse Helms forced hate and bigotry into the lives of Americans for many years.

With the passing today of one of America's last remaining truly racist politicians, I am reminded too quickly of the political pundits and hate-mongers in my own state. Protesters targeting a fast food establishment in Lewiston yesterday are not the only Idahoans crying "end hate in our state." In the months since the Minico flag incident, we have been subjected to hate infiltrating out communities in ways we can only compare to the days when Richard Butler and the Aryan Nations operated here.

For far too long we have sat passively by as a home-grown radio pundit has spewed his hate-filled rhetoric through the airwaves into our homes, into our communities, and into our lives. Why does he matter? What he says does not matter in the realm of partisan politics, this is not an issue of Democrat or Republican. What he says does not matter in the overall protection of speech, as the erroneous claims of First Amendment privileges suggest, because he does in fact have the right to speak freely as is granted to him by the United States Constitution just as we, as citizens also protected by that very amendment, have the right to tell him exactly where we disagree with him. What he says matters most in terms of decency and humanity.

On this, the two-hundred and thirty-second anniversary of John Hancock's signing of the Declaration of Independence, I can't help but recognize that in all the time that has passed since Thomas Jefferson penned the very words "all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights," there remain in this country an inexcusable number of men and women who deny these very truths.

In my state alone we have at least one radio pundit who sees fit to call the Democratic candidate for the presidency of the United States of America a "Negroid." He is inclined to refer to Mr. Obama by his middle name of Hussein in an attempt to scare his listeners into believing Mr. Obama is not Christian, but rather connected to Islam. He has in the past belittled the hard work and dedication of decent Idahoans who work for very little and contribute to our communities in big ways. With pride he has claimed to pull a gun on a local Hispanic man; has told horribly demeaning jokes about Native Americans; has allowed his guests to speak atrocities such as that of his recent guest who referred to Senator Obama's mother as trailer trash and another guest that he entrusts his show to from time to time to state that American Indians deserved to be a conquered people; he has consistently stated, in reference to the monument at the Minidoka internment camp site, that we have nothing for which to apologize because our internment of Japanese-Americans following the attack on Pearl Harbor was justifiable; and, he has attacked the youngest and brightest citizens in our communities for their beliefs, political and otherwise.

Two-hundred and thirty-two years ago, one of the greatest writers in the history of this great nation offered a declaration on behalf of his country to the British and the world that he and his countrymen would pledge their lives, fortunes, and honor in part due to their belief that all men are created equal. Fifty-six men signed that declaration, beginning the great experiment that is now the United States of America. If fifty-six men in 1776 could put their lives on the line by signing their names to such a document, an act of treason against the Crown, expressing with complete certainty these self-evident truths, 1.4 million Idahoans in 2008 are undoubtedly capable of standing up and saying with as much certainty that our state will not be a refuge of hate and that we, too, believe that all men are created equal.

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