Monday, February 28, 2011

Rhetoric of Confrontation

There's a bit of an update on that violent rhetoric that pundits have been on the lookout for since the Tucson massacre. Two stories are surfacing today. The first is out of New Hampshire, where a local Democrat encouraged union members to "get bloody" in defense of their rights to organize. Right wing media outlets are pushing this story as an example of violence. Left wing blogs are ablaze with an Indiana Deputy Attorney General who urged police to "use live ammunition" against protestors in Wisconsin. He has since resigned.

Capuano's remarks arguably acknowledged the history of struggle in the labor movement. Establishing American unions cost workers and their families their lives. The unions were built on a foundation of blood, it is true, but it was largely the blood of unionized workers. When someone says "get bloody" it takes a bit of a guilty conscience to automatically assume the speaker intends to shed others' blood. There is nothing inherently violent in "getting bloody" except the expectation that the other side of the equation are willing to spill worker blood, not a far reach of the imagination considering the history of strike-busting in the midwest. Capuano's "get bloody" remark is not distinguishable from the "roll up our sleeves and get dirty" metaphor.

Madison's chief of police was activetly worried by Scott Walker consideration of using violence as a tool against union members. The thuggishness expressed by Walker's consideration of planting "troublemakers" on his call with "David Koch" is much more troubling. The additional cheer leading for violence coming from the Indiana Republican establishment is absolutely inappropriate. The professional Right is in the middle of a campaign to blur the line between calling for violence and calling for shared sacrifice. It certainly is chilling to then hear them turn around and urge their version of sacrifice. The simplistic conclusion here is that Democrats believe in the value of voluntary sacrifice; Republicans would prefer to put others on the altar and force them to give their lives.

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