Saturday, October 10, 2009

Culture of violence and disrespect....

I had fun decorating a booth at the Georgia National Fair for the Democratic Party. I brought tables and chairs and flags and posters from home. Then I stopped by Kroger and bought blue and white balloons. My friend Fenika Miller brought a life size stand-up of President Barack Obama as a finishing touch for the booth.
And that’s when the vitriol began.
Grown men raised in the South whose mamas must have taught them better stopped by the booth on a regular basis and made rude, aggressive, and sometimes violent comments.
One sneering man approached the booth and said, “You better take that down.” He pointed at the Obama stand-up.
“Are you threatening me?” I asked. Twenty-three years in the public schools did not make me a shy person. I am a retired educator, age 73, with a head full of white hair but I will still stand up to bullies.
“I’m threatening him,” said the visitor. I’m coming back and I’ll pour gasoline on him and burn him up.” This sounded a bit like Mississippi in the 1960s to me.
After that, I had a chat with the manager in the McGill building and with fair security. Some nice guys at a nearby booth offered to help me if I had more trouble.
And there was more trouble, most of it occurring when women were volunteering at the booth. I guess the bullies weren’t up to trying to intimidate the men volunteers.
At one point a guy who apparently had gone obsessive on the subject of communism stood in front of our booth hollering, pointing, and doing everything but making good sense for what seemed like ten minutes, but had to be shorter. Two real Southern gentlemen helped me out by approaching the booth and standing next to him, one on either side. The ranter became quieter and quieter and finally slunk off. The presence of two men, both bigger than he was, seemed to have a calming effect.
Let me insert here that the Republicans that I know personally have manners and class and would be ashamed to act like those ruffians who taunted the Democratic women at the fair. If they are disappointed over the outcome of the 2008 election they are not showing it by snarling “You don’t believe all that crap, do you” when a Democratic woman asks, “Are you enjoying the fair?”
Another older man said he wanted to borrow our Obama image so he could hold its head under water at a nearby hot tub demonstration. Said this grandpa, “I would hold him under the water for ten minutes and smile the whole time.”
I would like to say that this rude behavior surprised me. I would like to say that it surprised me when a young man stood in front of our booth and went through the motions of firing an imaginary rifle in the direction of an image of the President of the United States. It doesn’t surprise me because I was at the same booth last year and encountered the same type of verbal abuse.
What does surprise and shock me is the culture of violence and disrespect for the Presidency that is taking root in my beloved United States of America.

Kristina Simms is a retired educator and state president of the Georgia Federation of Democratic Women. She is the author of a history of Macon, GA and several other books, and also an advocate for the mentally disabled.

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Amy Morton said...

I wish that I could say I am surprised. We need to be surprised. We need to be shocked because the moment we grow numb to this behavior, we lose our humanity.

jnga said...

We live in an area of the country where ignorance is deep and profound. Georgia is near the bottom in literacy. Racism is learned in the home and in the local culture. Generations of ignorant racists pass it on. The violent hate speech that we hear on some news channels and from hate-talk radio hosts appeals most to these people because they haven't the education or intelligence to know the difference. It simply appeals to the ignorant ideas they have learned and gets them fired up, because they have not learned that violence is not a good idea, either. Ignorance and violence--a bad combination.

BEZERKO said...

"...there was more trouble, most of it occurring when women were volunteering at the booth. I guess the bullies weren’t up to trying to intimidate the men volunteers."

Uh, yeah. A lot of the activists are women, maybe even a majority of them on the progressive side, and the intimidation seems to be directed more at the women than the men. What a bunch of cowards.

Tina said...

One man said that Obama was trying to turn us into a European country and "all Europeans are bad." So I just smiled and said "ALL of them?"
And then he began to back off.

Tina said...

Two Ohio women who ran the Unique Collection booth also had trouble.
Their booth had Michael Jackson fan material, Obama pins, and mugs, and a LOT of other general stuff, like socks, notebooks, religious items, Bible covers. They said that no one addressed comments directly at them but they overheard racist comments as people walked by their booth. Also, occasionally people would stop with the intention of buying something and then leave huffily when they saw the Obama items.