Thursday, December 04, 2008

Violent language encourages violent acts

The just concluded American election reached its nadir when increasingly desperate Republicans turned to demonizing their foes. McCain/Palin campaign events began to resemble torchlight rallies as rhetoric about treason, terrorism and socialism was thrown against Barack Obama. Predictably such intemperate, eliminationist rhetoric led to hysterical, even violent responses from the Republican hard core base.

Pandering to this kind of uniformed, resentful hatred of the opposition was the most inexcusable part of a sleazy, dangerously demagogic campaign - culminating in the horrific race baiting of a white McCain staffer falsely claiming a black Obama supporter had attacked and mutilated her. Despite a farcically, blatantly false story she was embraced by the McCain campaign.

Canadians watched these antics in shock and thanked our lucky stars that we don't do politics like that up here.

This week Prime Minister Harper and his embattled government have used the kind of heated rhetoric unsuited to a democracy. All but calling the opposition traitors to Canada, describing legitimate parliamentary behaviour as a coup and demonizing whole segments of the Canadian public.

And now we've seen the first attacks against opposition offices and signs. MP Nathan Cullen had one of his campaign signs literally firebombed, Liberal M.P. Ujjal Dosanj had his constituency office vandalized - petty stuff so far but unambiguous warning signs that dangerous passions are being stoked.

If Harper's desperate slanders lead to actual political violence history will not forgive him. All Canadians should call on the Prime Minister to stop misrepresenting legitimate parliamentary democracy as treason and cool the rhetoric before someone gets hurt.

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