- Caleb Walsh illustration
Before Thanksgiving, the annual Committee Days in Olympia is like a pregame warm-up for the legislative session. For effective legislators, it's a hectic schedule full of hearings and meetings; a strategic and productive time to connect regarding what the next year will look like.
But Rep. Matt Shea from Spokane Valley isn't known for effectiveness in terms of getting bills passed — which might be a good thing. Instead, he's ready to give the people what they want: Standing outside the Capitol rotunda steps, he's calling for Gov. Jay Inslee to be impeached. "We love refugees but not terrorists!" he yells to cheers amid a crowd of people openly carrying guns with signs that say "Deport Inslee." He's mad as hell after the governor announced that our state would not close its doors to refugees in the wake of the Paris attacks. Given that states have no authority — and that most Washingtonians support Inslee's actions — he's wasting time, though his followers wouldn't know that.
That doesn't stop Rep. Jay Rodne from doubling down on Facebook without a fact (or spell) checker: "Obama wants to import 1.5 million muslims into the U.S. This is absolute madness! Islam is incompatible with western civilization! How anyone people need to die? In the interim, Amicans, arm yourselves!!!!!"
The Republican legislator from Snoqualmie fails to understand that believing Islam is incompatible with the West puts him in agreement with ISIS; moreover, his numbers are made up. He's not simply a fringe member, either: He's the ranking GOP member of the House Judiciary Committee. Rodne tried to justify his comments on a Freedom Foundation podcast by claiming that one or two of the Paris attackers were "newly arrived Syrian refugees" before mocking the Lebanese surname of the Washington State Democrats' communications director, who has called for his removal from leadership. Another false statement, plus a racist attack, as the incendiary rhetoric went unchecked by the interviewer. Thanks to Donald Trump, Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson, this language fits a national pattern that has become the new normal: Republicans are lying to people. They are making a conscious effort to scare voters about everything so they can benefit, capitalizing on fear and hatred.
After a week that brought the killings of three people at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs and five Black Lives Matter protesters shot in Minneapolis, the politicians who use inflammatory rhetoric need to be called out for what they're actually doing: being enablers.
It's not enough to dismiss what's happening as "crazy" or "nonsense" anymore. If we do, we're going to see more violence. The party of fiscal conservatism is on its way to becoming America's largest hate group. Lacking substance, they've built a coalition by embracing the worst aspects of our society; only desperate bullies would react with so much anger and vitriol.
After last month's election, the Eighth Man, a local right-wing "City Council watchdog" group, shared a meme of Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart reconfigured as Adolf Hitler, courtesy of former Republican candidate Tim Benn, who ran twice for a 3rd District House seat. The constitutional martyrs will kick and scream "First Amendment rights!" but they do not understand the gravity of such violent and ugly comparisons — and that words have consequences.
We could learn from Antoine Leiris. He lost his wife at Paris' Bataclan Theatre, and in a post shared around the world, he told the killers that his young son will rise above ISIS his whole life by "being happy and free" rather than full of hatred: "You're asking for it, but responding to hatred with anger is falling victim to the same ignorance that has made you what you are," he wrote. "You want me to be afraid, to view my countrymen with mistrust, to sacrifice my liberty for my security. You lost."
The message is more powerful than the cowardice we see today. In the end, love always wins. ♦
Paul Dillon manages public affairs for Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and North Idaho.