John McCain spent months fanning the fear-filled fires of folks scared of terrorists, socialists, and anti-Americanism in his campaign for President. On election night he made a fine concession speech and walked away – but the fires are still burning. John McCain apparently thought it was OK to turn fears on high for as long as possible to help his quest for the presidency. But he cannot now just expect the flames to turn off. He owes America an apology for running a terribly fear-mongering, knowingly false and divisive campaign.
Just outside of New Orleans, a newly discovered chapter of the Ku Klux Klan murdered one of their newest recruits in the past few days. The woman who was murdered was a novice who took a bus down from Oklahoma after the election for the specific purpose of joining the Klan. She was shot and her body was burned after a disagreement with the Klan leader. Coincidence?
Nationwide, gun sales are up. People in Houston are buying, according to the Los Angeles Times, assault rifles and high capacity magazines of ammunition. Denver, according to the New York Times, set a one day record for people seeking weapons. Coincidence?
In the most expensive exclusive private school in New Orleans, a classroom of 12 year olds was asked by their teacher what their reactions were to the election. In front of one African American classmate, one white student said, “Twelve black people can’t run a Burger King, how do you expect one black man to run the country?” What made that student and his family think that was acceptable speech? Does the fact that McCain got 86% of the white vote in Louisiana give a hint? Coincidence?
The New York Times reported on the people in small town Alabama, where the election is making whites fear that blacks will now be more “aggressive.”
John McCain professed to be deeply offended by Congressman John Lewis’ warning that the campaign of McCain and Palin was stoking fires that could not be put out. They spent months pounding away at supposed connections to terrorism that they knew were bogus. They spent months screaming that socialism was on the advance if they lost. Their campaign gave comfort and support to their fellow travelers of the hard right to scare and scare and scare people. And guess what, people are scared. And scared people do scary things.
Congressman Lewis warned them in October. “As public figures with the power to influence and persuade, Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin are playing with fire, and if they are not careful, that fire will consume us all. They are playing a very dangerous game that disregards the value of the political process and cheapens our entire democracy. We can do better. The American people deserve better.”
Senator McCain was “offended,” seriously offended by Rep Lewis’ comments. “Congressman John Lewis’ comments represent a character attack against Governor Sarah Palin and me that is shocking and beyond the pale. The notion that legitimate criticism of Senator Obama’s record and positions could be compared to Governor George Wallace, his segregationist policies and the violence he provoked is unacceptable and has no place in this campaign.”
Maybe this is all just a coincidence since the election. Coincidence? I think not. John McCain owes this country a real and full apology for fanning the fires of fear. And he also owes John Lewis an apology.
BILL QUIGLEY is a law professor and human rights lawyer at Loyola University New Orleans. Bill has visited Haiti many times as a volunteer advocate with the Institute for Justice and Peace in Haiti. www.ijdh.org Vladmir Laguerre, a journalist in Port au Prince, helped with this article. Bill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.