Fight the power of hatred

Sometimes there is solace in having the right words to use, in being able to call something exactly what it is.

I would like to thank President Clinton for the phrase "evil cowards."
Evil cowards killed babies in the springtime. Evil cowards made death in Normal, Oklahoma.

A pickup truck, they say. Of course: so normal in Oklahoma. The cop with the beer gut, so normal, with an expression of anguish on his plain face, rushing the dying baby to a fireman.

All those voices--in agony, in shock, in rage--all with that twanging, normal Oklahoma accent.

Evil cowards.
My God, the pointlessness of it. Why? What for? Who in Oklahoma City has the power to change the world?

Power, say the shrinks. It gives the evil cowards a sense of power.
Vulnerability, say the shrinks. The evil cowards want us to feel vulnerable. But what good does that do them?

Wars have been caused by terrorists. We've been in some. Remember the Maine. The assassination of the archduke in Sarajevo. But who would give the evil cowards the satisfaction of letting us get dragged into their conflicts?

Even in the Middle East, they know better; they continue to make peace despite the evil cowards, and that takes real courage. Even in Ireland, they ignore the evil cowards.

Sometimes the evil cowards want to provoke reaction. The Bäader-Meinhof gang rampaged through Germany in the 1970s, hoping to provoke a fascist reaction, hoping to show that liberal democracy could not survive terrorism.

Even in Germany, they did not give in to the evil cowards that time.
The impulse to make ourselves safer by making ourselves less free is an old one, even here. When we are badly frightened, we think we can make ourselves safer by sacrificing some of our liberties.

We did it during the McCarthy era out of fear of communism. Less liberty is regularly proposed as a solution to crime, to pornography, to illegal immigration, to abortion, to all kinds of threats. But we shall not let evil cowards make us less free.

Fanatics have always said, "Things have to get worse before they can get better." Such evil nonsense.

And mothers have always replied, "Not with my child's life."
"Who are these people?"
Glad you asked. I'm in regular correspondence with them myself. Here's a billet-doux that arrived just last week:

"Molly Ivins: We have a strong response to leftist, feminazi, elitist media persons such as yourself. You are an enemy of the White race, the White family unit, and White America. You will be defeated along with your agenda of social subversion and decay.

"The People of Cincinnati and of the Nation have rejected your agenda and your clown prince Clinton. We are taking our nation back and we are ready to deal with you and your ilk by any means necessary! WE DESPISE YOU AND YOUR KIND!!!"

It follows a small sticker in black, red, and white with a swastika and the slogan "WHITE POWER!"

Also appended: a copy of a column I wrote with "Commie Fag Lover" scrawled across my picture, and some uncharitable and unprintable suggestions on it. Just a regular piece of fan mail in the daily life of a leftist, feminazi, elitist media person like myself.

Except for the piercing logic of calling someone a "feminazi" in a letter with a swastika pasted on it for identification, this is pretty impressive.

This is one of the less loony pieces of White Power mail I receive. The ones about the supposed invasion of this country by the United Nations are truly far gone in paranoia, not to mention the remarkable theory that President Clinton is about to import 100,000 Chinese cops to take people's guns away.

White Power, the KKK, and the Lone Star Militia (and related branches) are all part of the same old racist, hate-mongering bunch of cockroaches who have been around all our lives. These belly-creeping dimwits are haters, which gets us into the same old trap: what do you do about hating the haters?

The phenomenal torrent of rhetoric unleashed by the Republican right lately on the theme that Government Is The Enemy plays right into the hands of the haters. The more people talk about government as Them, some unreachable, uncontrollable Other, the more extreme the haters get.

I've got news for the haters: Government Is Us in this country. Well, us and a lot of corporate special-interest money. (Speaking of corporate special-interest money, perhaps the timber, mining, and ranching interests would now like to rethink their funding of the increasingly violent antienvironmental groups.)

Does this mean anyone who criticizes the gummint should now shut up, lest we somehow encourage the scum who are willing to kill children in their blind hatred? Of course not.

Do I think the climate of hate speech, hate radio, and hate politics contributed to the torn, tiny bodies in Oklahoma City? I knowit did.

The poisoning of the well of public debate by people like Rep. Bob Dornan, now running for the presidency of the United States, is just as much a part of the bomb that went off in Oklahoma as the fertilizer that went into it. Hate speech is fertilizer for bombs.

So should we limit freedom of speech?
Of course not.
But with freedom comes responsibility, and people should be held accountable for their words. And the rest of us have a responsibility, too: to use our own freedom to speak out against the haters.

The poisonous stew of gun nuts, racists, right-wingers, and religious zealots has been allowed to boil and bubble, heated by paranoia and lies, until it finally exploded.

And it turned out that all the macho fantasies of all the losers who like to play at war were just the miasma of sick minds--there was no enemy.

There were only mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, husbands, and wives. And babies.

Molly Ivins is a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Copyright 1995 Creators Syndicate, Inc.

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Molly Ivins