Politics gets nasty.
When I was a graduate student at Tulane University, I remember reading newspapers dating from the 1830s. The political rhetoric that filled those publications during national elections was incredibly vitriolic and hateful. The political cartoons were sometimes even more scathing! The attacks often turned downright personal. The material rivaled any hotly contested race today.
Politics just gets that way.
But today, it seems to me that we're crossing sacred boundaries to our own peril. Some of what is being said in this campaign cuts into the health of the nation's soul.
Earlier this week, we heard reports of racial epitaphs being shouted from campaign audiences against Senator Barack Obama. The use of the senator's middle name in a blatantly discriminatory and fearful manner, the veiled language of racism that identifies Obama as "not like us," charges that he was a terrorist and even voices shouting for his death were heard in more than one campaign speech and from more than one rally crowd. This all reminds me of the rhetoric surrounding the 1960 presidential campaign and the hate-filled language directed toward President Kennedy leading up to his assassination here in Dallas. It is all despicable.
For the leaders of such audiences, and by that I mean those who are at the podium speaking and those who organize the events, to refuse to stop immediately and challenge or correct such behavior is a serious moral problem. Such tactics destroy community, foster hatred and diminish the quality of life for every American.
This is not a partisan issue. It is not a political issue. This is a spiritual concern that points up just how far off course we have gone.