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Native Terrorists

That the Republican response to passage of the massive health care bill should be petulant is no surprise; a generation of successful bullying does nothing to help learn how to accept defeat graciously, especially not among a subculture that has been self-selecting for arrogance and willful ignorance for a long time. But there is such a thing as taking poor sportsmanship too far.

I’m not talking about Republican senators invoking a procedural rule to shut down Senate business at 2pm every day, though it is a rude gesture and harmful to good governance. (If they only kept it up long enough to fuel some good political ads come November, that might be different.) I’m not talking about the sudden discovery of procedural or language errors in the bill itself, which Republicans couldn’t bother to correct before the vote, though that is further evidence that they care nothing for bipartisan cooperation, nor for the rule of law. I’m not talking about the coordinated lawsuits by Republican-controlled states against the law, though that does prove they feel that “legislating through the courts”—specifically, the all-Republican Supreme Court—is another case of “it’s all right if you’re a Republican.” I’m not even talking about the death threats, hate speech, conspiracy theories, and similar behavior that, while inexcusable, were present before the law was enacted and indeed can be heard from the radical fringe of all political camps.

No, I’m talking about actual, life-threatening attacks on legislators who voted to pass the bill, as happened to the brother of Representative Periello (D-VA), when his gas line was deliberately severed. Ironically, the attack didn’t even target the right house; someone confused Periello’s address with his brother’s on a website where right-wingers egg one another on. Those responsible are not concerned, neither to learn others (?) are acting on their urgings, nor at the confusion over victim: “Oh, well. Collateral damage.”

Four children live in that house.

When people worry aloud about the threat of home-grown terrorists, they usually mean some disenfranchised, misfit youth, ripe for the predations of radical Muslim recruiters. But the real home-grown terrorists, the real terrorist threat to America, are these empowered, white, nominally Christian males, draping themselves in the American flag. A terrorist movement is dangerous to those individuals unfortunate enough to fall in their cross-hairs; an ultraconservastive, ultranationalist, terrorist movement operating on behalf of and with the tacit—and yes, occasionally overt—approval of one of the country’s two dominant parties is a threat to the entire country, far more of a threat than any foreign fanatics could ever be. These aren’t just home-grown terrorists; they’re a home-grown brownshirt movement, the embryonic form of the very fascist takeover they claim to be fighting.

Well, we’ve got the tools to fight back. Ill-conceived as they were, the PATRIOT Act and similar authoritarian legislation were also passed into law—rammed down our throats by a supermajority, to coin a phrase. And though they were aimed by a right-wing government at any who might challenge right-wing authority, the laws were sweepingly vague, easily including these repulsive little thugs in their broad mandate. Well, the right wing wanted the government to have the tools to investigate, prosecute, and punish terrorism without restraint; let it use those tools now that it has them. Within the rule of law, of course! The terrorists—any terrorists—win if we allow ourselves to abandon the rule of law in pursuing them. Happily, cracking down on the radical right now lies well within the rule of law.

When the happy day arrives (one hopes) that our home-grown terrorists learn to rejoin the public discourse, they can continue to speak out, however meanly, stupidly, or inaccurately they like. Until then, they remain terrorists. They are a direct and immediate threat to the most elementary needs the country and the most elementary rights of its individual citizens, and should be treated accordingly. That is, exactly as they, themselves, demanded terrorists be treated.

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