#97 – Dick Bernard: Killing a civil society

On the afternoon of November 4, 1995 – it was a Saturday – I was on the way to afternoon Mass at my then-Parish, St. Peter Claver in St. Paul MN.  Nearing the church, an announcement came over the car radio: Israel Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin had been shot.  I passed the word along to the Parish Priest Kevin McDonough, who blanched, and as I recall, I was allowed to announce to the congregation what I had just heard on the radio.
At the time of the announcement we weren’t certain of any details, including who had shot the Nobel Prize winner, or even if he had died.  By the time Mass was concluded we knew Rabin had been assassinated, and soon learned that his killer was a radical right-wing Israeli Jew, at the far fringe of those incensed that Rabin was working for a durable peace with Palestine.
As it happened, two and a half months later I was with a group that visited Rabin’s still-fresh grave in Jerusalem.  I still see it all.
This vignette comes to mind because of a September 29, 2009, column by Thomas Friedman in the New York Times.  The NYT column headline is “Where did “we” go“, and opens recalling Friedman’s visit with Rabin in Jerusalem shortly before the assassination.  He says, early on, “extreme right-wing settlers…were doing all they could to delegitimize Rabin…They questioned his authority.  They accused him of treason.  They created pictures depicting him as a Nazi SS officer, and they shoulted death threats at rallies.  His political opponents winked at it all.
Of course, the story ended with a righteous crazed zealot killing Rabin.  A single murderer, but endless accomplices who in effect encouraged the insane act.
Friedman goes on at length in his column to raise the parallels he sees in today’s United States of America.
We see hate speech being legitimized in our country, and outlandish behavior being sanctioned as simple political free speech.  All of this is duly reported (if not encouraged) by news media, legitimate and not so legitimate.  And unlike in Rabin’s day, the means of technology for disseminating hate and outrageous and deliberate lies is much more sophisticated than it was only 14 years ago.
One can only wonder what Rabin and others could have accomplished in Israel/Palestine had he lived.
The merchants of hate won, and everyone (including the hate merchants) lost.
If you can, read Friedman’s column.  For a limited time it is available on the web. Here’s the link: #mce_temp_url#
If you’re one who’s amused by, or admires, the politics of hate and deceit, get over it.  If you despise this kind of behavior, call ’em out whenever you witness it.
Change needs to happen person-to-person.