In the farcical television wrestling pageants of decades ago, certain fighters had a predilection for hiding, in their trunks, mysterious metal objects. They would produce them with a swift flourish both overt and mock-surreptitious; crack their opponent-victims in the head once or twice; then, with wide-eyed, overacted stealth, hide the cudgels again. Every single viewer saw the nefarious deal plainly, and delectated in it. Only the hapless referee (worked hard to pretend he) didn't know anything. And everyone knew that his ignorance, too, was rigged.
Times change. But not the ubiquity of threat and tawdry spectacle. Forty years later, that dirty fighter -- spiffed up for prime time but just as low as ever -- happens to be president. Watching those blows, about which more in a moment, the American public and the press still prefer to cheer the malefactor, while nervously wondering if maybe they should start to boo, instead. Occasionally, one of them looks around sheepishly for support, then goes back to clapping. Not exactly exemplars of probity, they'd rather endure the canard and the squirmy feeling than whisper to their neighbor that this match stinks. And here, the referee playing stupid is American civility, decorum, and decency.
How else to explain the people's supineness in the face of yesterday's incendiary threat by B. Hussein Obama in front of La Raza -- that nasty chaparral of ethnic enmity -- that "The idea of doing things on my own is very tempting. I promise you, not just on immigration reform. But that's not how our system works. That's not how our democracy functions. That's not how our Constitution is written." (Italics added; quoted here.) 'Course, things can change, right Mr. President? Notice the condescending, nodding sop to nominal legality after the weapon is patted. Subtlety is not the strong suit of this threat, is it?
Or how about the gem back in April of 2009, when, nursing his bile a mere three months after inauguration, BHO indecorously said, in a menace to the bank CEOs, "Be careful how you make those statements, gentlemen. The public isn't buying that. . . . My administration . . . is the only thing between you and the pitchforks." (Quoted here.) A charming image, no? But it was no mere figure of speech. A month later, many hundreds of bought-and-paid-for peasants sans pitchforks did indeed show up with the modern equivalents: placards, bullhorns, voluble t-shirts, police escort, deep-pocket government-cum-union funding, and, oh yes, a penchant for heart-stopping mob intimidation. They scared the stuffing out of their hated target's young son. (See the whole story here, and here, and -- down gorge -- here.)
Then there's the memorable, if unoriginal, "If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun," (quoted here); the unforgettable, "So I know whose a$$ to kick," (now, see here); "punish our enemies," (sigh, here, also to Latinos); and, of course, the evergreen "I want you to argue with them and get in their faces," (quoted here).
Earlier prototyrants have sent coded messages ahead of themselves, in the end hewing to their own road. Their audiences wrote them off, wouldn't listen, or liked what they heard. Has the American ethos so befouled itself that honor, uprightness, and respect -- once vaunted -- are now for chumps? In the wrestling matches, the mayhem was staged; the players well-paid; the injuries fake. But having disregarded our laws, demeaned our virtue, debased our language, decimated our industry, dismantled NASA, decried our worth, disdained our friends, and deconstructed our history, Commander-in-Chief Obama may one day indeed make the real-world decision that "The idea of doing things on my own is very tempting. I promise you, not just on immigration reform." The president is speaking to you. Will you say on that day that you hadn't heard, couldn't have imagined, or didn't know?
Richard Kantro may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.