I was 15 years old the day that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. I was 19 when Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered in Memphis, and 20 when Bobby Kennedy was shot in Los Angeles.
I remember where I was when those murders happened. I remember the faces of shocked and grieving Americans on the television. I remember the feelings of fear and despair I had about our country.
There are powerful conservatives in Congress, on the radio and on Fox News who lived through those assassinations in the 1960s. They are intentionally stoking the fires of racism and hatred in this country.
Republican members of Congress stood by this past week while yelling protesters created a gauntlet for Democrats to pass through on their way to vote on national health care reform. Some of the protesters shouted racist and homophobic epithets at Democrats as they walked into the Capitol to vote on health care reform. Four Republican members of Congress got a big cheer from the crowd when they waved a "Don't Tread on Me" banner from a balcony in our nation's capital.
The Juneau Empire ran a story on March 25 about the threatening calls made to Democrats and the vandalism to their headquarters. A group of protestors were planning to go to the home - not the office, the home - of an Ohio member of Congress the weekend of March 27. Cincinnati police parked a squad car in front of his home to protect his wife and children.
On March 25th, Republican Eric Cantor held a press conference to say that Democrats are "fanning the flames" by talking about the ugly demonstrations against Democrats the weekend before. That's an "Alice in Wonderland" turn of logic.
Then there's Sarah Palin, who was an infant when President Kennedy was shot by a sniper's bullet. She was 4 years old when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy were shot and killed. Those horrific events aren't seared into her memory, but she must know the history. Sarah Palin has a map of the United States on her Facebook page with cross hairs locating the twenty Democrats she has "targeted" for defeat in November. She tweeted, "Commonsense Conservatives & Lovers of America: Don't retreat, Instead- RELOAD."
A leader leads. A demagogue incites.
All of this gives me a very queasy feeling. Where are the moderates in the Republican Party? Is this the Republican Party they want? Where does our own Sen. Lisa Murkowski stand in all this? Is the peer pressure so intense, the heat so relentless from the Far Right media, and the desire for re-election so consuming that not one prominent Republican will stand up and say "enough" before something horrible happens?
Barbara Belknap lives in Juneau.