Is An Effigy No Longer Good Enough?

It was only a matter of time until the anti-government sentiment now so prevalent in this country resulted in bloodshed. An ominous wind blows from Kentucky and while the jury is still out on what exactly happened, lots of people are thinking, is this what we have come to?

Bill Sparkman, a US Census worker was found hanging near a graveyard in Clay County, Kentucky. This could easily be dismissed for a suicide were it not for the fact that the word “FED” was scrawled across the man’s chest. In the backdrop we have the general government discontent stirred by Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck. Perhaps more damning, the explicit census-paranoia sparked by Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann.

Much of the media is approaching this story with caution. Clearly, the investigation is just beginning and this could be either a very bizarre suicide or a “prank” homicide completely unrelated to any political agenda. If either case proves to be true, we should still stop and contemplate this moment. Regardless of what really happened, what are many of  us thinking right now and why?

I have said this before but I will say it again. The time has come for the political rhetoric to be tamped down. While conservatives are quick to point to Nancy Pelosi as a pot stirrer, the truth is that the activities Pelosi labeled “unamerican” were the rude, uncivil activities demonstrated by a minority of protesters. On the other hand, we have Glenn Beck surmising that Barack Obama has a deep seated hatred for white people. We have Rush Limbaugh blaming black on white school violence on “Obama’s America”. Our public discourse has gone off the rails in a way that truly eclipses the negative press of the Bush administration. With Bush there were very specific gripes, mostly centered around the war in Iraq. No one was saying “I want my country back.” There was not an overriding sense that government could do no right.

That has changed. Government now is the suspect. Trust is at an all time low. The 24 hour news cycle enables the loudest craziest voice to be heard over more reasonable ones.

I don’t know that Mr. Sparkman was killed by an anti-government nutjob. I do know that if the climate in this country were different, we wouldn’t all be wondering about the likelihood that Mr. Sparkman was indeed a human effigy for the US government.

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