In the prize rings of public disputation, I’m not tagged as a "No más," kind of guy. But like Robert Duran, the Panamanian boxer who probably didn’t actually say those words but really did give up during his 1980 championship fight with Sugar Ray Leonard, I think I’ve had enough.
Driving home from work last week, I was behind an S. U. V. sporting a collection of anti-Obama bumper stickers, one of which employed mock bullet holes to suggest "The Worst President Ever!" is a proper target for Pennsylvania riflemen. A day or two later, a newspaper informed me that the conservative idol, Rush Limbaugh, found lurking in the symbol of the Administration’s health care program a dark resemblance to a Nazi icon. Then, on a cable-news program, I watched footage of right-wingers at a town-hall meeting toting pictures of the president defaced with a Hitler mustache. Now I read a Sarah Palin tweet opposing a "death panel" to determine whether old people like me, or Down Syndrome kids like hers, should live.
To suggest the assassination of a president, to encourage people to believe that the subtext of medicine’s ancient caduceus floating above the American flag is like the Reichstag’s eagle clutching a swastika, to identify a democratically elected chief executive of the United States with a madman dictator who murdered millions, or to distort for political purposes so personal a challenge as the birth of one’s own disadvantaged child, strikes me as transgressions on the pale of civil debate. To say nothing of rational discourse.
Fifty-two summers ago, lawyer Joseph Welsh stood up to Saint Joe McCarthy, the fear-mongering senator from Wisconsin, and asked, "Have you no sense of decency . . . At long last, have you left no sense of decency? "
I know that in the marketplace of ideas no citizen of goodwill patronizes the stalls of hyperbole, hate, falsehood, racism, irrationality, or intemperance. And I give up on the notion that the acolytes of AM radio have anything to say to which the rest of us are any longer obliged to listen.