Friday, April 25, 2008

Political Terrorism Alive and Well in Carmel

This evening my wife and I had the misfortune to learn that terror on the basis of political viewpoint is apparently alive and well in Carmel, Indiana. A suburban community known as an idyllic place for families, a community where misguided parents want the city to adopt "decency" ordinances, a neighborhood where families gather around bonfires on Halloween and Friday nights in the summer, is also a city where those with a "different" political viewpoint may be subject to vandalism and acts intended to terrorize.

At around 10:30 tonight, I was in the basement reading and my wife was in the bedroom watching TV when we were both startled by a very, very loud crashing or banging noise. From the basement, it sounded as if something very large had fallen to the floor. I ran upstairs to find my wife very distraught saying that something had banged into the front door several times. At first, I thought it might have been an animal or a bird. We looked out the front windows, but didn't see anything or anyone. Then I noticed on the floor in front of the door was the magnet that we keep on the door to keep notes or family photos. The magnet is very, very strong and is actually hard to pull off of the door. Thus, whatever hit the door causing the magnet to fall must have done so with significant force.

My suspicion then fell on neighborhood kids out for a simple prank. The only problem with this solution is that there are very few older kids in our neighborhood and, based on the sound my wife heard (not to mention the force to knock down the magnet), I don't think that it could have been a younger child.

My wife called the police to see if they'd had any other reports of this kind of activity. They hadn't, but said that they would send a patrol car to drive around the neighborhood. In the meantime, I decided to go outside (with my 95 pound German Shepherd for company).

I didn't find anything on or around our door, so whatever (or whoever) hit the door, must have left quickly. Then, I realized what had happened.

A few days ago, we put up a "Hoosiers for Hillary" sign in our front yard (Note: I'm actually still undecided, but I have no problem showing that I want a Democrat to be the next President). So far, ours has been the only Clinton or Obama yard sign that I've seen in Carmel (and I've seen way too many signs for Dan Burton). Anyway, as the dog and I walked out toward the street, I discovered that our sign was gone. It was there when we got home from the movie earlier this evening. I looked around the yard and in the bushes nearby, but the sign was gone. So now I knew.

Yes, it may have been a simple prank. "Gee, let's scare the Democrats." But, in actuality, this childish prank is really far more sinister than that. It appears to have been politically motivated (why else choose our house; why else steal that particular yard sign?) and the loud banging on the door, fairly late at night, could serve no purpose other than to frighten those inside. There is a word for using the tactic of inducing fear to make a political point: terrorism. Sure, there was no bomb or gunfire or even violence; but that isn't what terrorism is about. Terrorism is about scaring -- terrorizing -- the "enemy". Is the act of trying to frighten us really that much different (though admittedly far less severe in scope and tone) than burning a cross in a front yard or painting a swastika on the side of a building?

Perhaps I'm overreacting; maybe it's because my wife was scared. Maybe it's because she has a rare illness that, when triggered, can send her into anaphylactic shock, and one of her most severe triggers is stress. Maybe it's because I have young children who could have been frightened (but thankfully, both seem to sleep through just about anything, even last week's earthquake). Maybe it was just kids, with no real malice and no real forethought. But maybe not. I'd hate to think that I live in a community where people really believe Ann Coulter and think that I'm a traitor because I'm a Democrat. I'd hate to think that I live in a city where people think that it's funny to try to frighten those with opposing political viewpoints. And I'd hate to think that one of my neighbors might be responsible for this conduct. But I suspect, knowing some of the people who live around me, that this wasn't just kids acting on their own.

For a long time I've suggested that our political culture of demonizing the political opposition and of referring to a political opponent or someone with a different political viewpoint as the "enemy" was a dangerous road and a slippery slope. I've often argued that it was a short jump from this sort of behavior to political violence, especially when talk radio tells people that, because of my political beliefs, I am the enemy and a traitor to America. I'm afraid that perhaps my fears have been justified. Politically motivated vandalism or "pranks" are simply one step down that dangerous road from name-calling toward violence.

If that is the current state of affairs in Carmel -- in America -- then we should all be scared.

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