Maxine Waters is in some hot water for a statement. It is still in the headlines and it does not appear to be going away.
That statement? “If you see anybody from that Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd and you push back on them, and you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere.”
There’s a reason that it won’t just go away. Despite the fact that our parents always told us about sticks and stones and how they hurt way more than words, the fact of the matter is that words do cause pain, and not just to our feelings.
One year and twelve days ago, a lunatic with a gun went to the Republicans’ baseball practice and opened fire, critically injuring the House Majority Whip and several others. He did so because he believed the rhetoric of the Left – that the GOP was a very real, very dangerous enemy that wanted the old and poor to die all for the sake of the rich and big businesses. He, in his deranged mind, felt it was his duty to stop them.
He is not the only example, and the Left doesn’t have a monopoly over political assassination attempts. But you cannot deny that if rhetoric that came nowhere near the level of incitement that Waters’ statement reached caused that much damage, then her speech was a clear signal to others like the Congressional baseball shooter that it’s open season on their political enemies.
So, when even Democrats like Chuck Schumer say it goes against the very idea of America to call for the public harassment, stalking, and mobbing of political opponents, you know that there is a realization that this is a dangerous precedent.
Maxine Waters isn’t some random political activist. She is a United States Congresswoman. She has a level of authority within her political party, and she spoke from that position of power when she said what she said. That makes her rhetoric a call to action, and that call to action can and will end up being a genie you can’t put back in the bottle.
My colleague Jim Jamitis made an excellent point yesterday on the subject of Waters and political rhetoric: Essentially, Waters is exactly what we deserve, given the fact that Donald Trump has gotten away with saying some incredibly vulgar and offensive things in the past, all for the sake of riling up his own base.
Trump and Waters are two sides of the same coin, and while Trump has never made the call to mob Democrats in the streets, his own words dehumanizing his political opponents have the same negative effects that led Scalise to get shot by a maniac. That there hasn’t been someone who acted on it yet doesn’t mean there won’t be.
Right now, it seems unlikely that we can put the toothpaste back in the tube here. The rhetoric is slowly spiraling out of control. It seems like it’s only a matter of time before someone gets hurt. Or worse.
But, we have to try and put a stop to it. We have to do what we can to return to some sense of normalcy here, or else we risk devolving into something unrecognizable.