Where is the conservative voice that is willing to express unambiguous condemnation of the murder of a doctor dedicated to the care of women--no matter what their political position on abortion? Where is the conservative voice that trumpets a clear message in condemnation of the hatred of Jews that inspired this week's attack in the national Holocaust Museum? What I hear from what should be voices of reason on the right is a fudging of the issues, a capitulation to the voices of unreason. Their silence, if it does not encourage, at least gives tacit permission to those whose ignorance promotes such acts.
My fear is that more heinous acts await us in the absence of sound, rational, authoritative leadership. Lacking the restraint that might be promoted by a modicum of moral clarity, the media's breeding grounds for ignorance, mistrust and hatred become more fertile and more powerful, lending credence to the notion that they are simply voicing another, equally valid point of view.
Let's be clear. The irrational is not a reasonable alternative to the rational. Mindless fanaticism is not a debatable alternative to cogent argument. Violence is not a reasonable expression of political opinion. It's truly frightening to watch the spectacle of conservatism hijacked and run amok, without a single powerful or credible voice that has the courage to speak out to steady it. The loudest and wildest voices raise shrill accusations of socialism. While I hate to raise this other specter, the truth about those voices is less pleasant: in their nationalistic fervor and their shameless tolerance of violence and fear-mongering, they recall a different kind of "socialism" from the 1930s. I refer, of course, to national socialism. Indeed, the worst of them embrace its values--even its flag--while their enablers look on without disapprobation.
It's a frightening prospect. I'm waiting, without much hope, for just one of those right-wing leaders who attract the TV cameras--a Mitch McConnell, say--to speak out, instead of standing there looking faintly surprised and sheepish when these things happen. I'm waiting for one person of unquestionable authority on the right to state with absolute clarity and simplicity, "I reject this hatred and this violence. I reject this intolerance and fanaticism. This is not who we are, this is not what we stand for." Instead, what I hear is a cowardly waffling, if not abject apology to the loud-mouthed pontificators of ignorance.
The condemnation of the terrorist tactics of others succeeds only in ringing hollow when we fail to condemn the same tactics in our own camp.