In light of yesterday's shootings in Tucson, I was struck by Mr. Frost's story illustrating the fact that the civilian political rightwing in this country was just as enamored of the abstraction of violence 40 years ago as their rhetoric reflects a belief in the cleansing power of gunfire today.
Among the voices of reason then were the leaders of the police -- the sheriffs of Santa Barbara and Los Angeles counties, chiefs of police in neighboring cities-- who knew better than the rightwing politicians who rode to power on "law 'n order" platforms what a dangerous thing raw and unreasoned violence really is. In Tucson, one of the most sensible voices is the sheriff, who bemoaned the fact that Arizona has become a "mecca" for this sort of arch conservative blather and bluster.
Institutions like the police and military are necessary to keep the peace. When misused -- often by civilian politicians who themselves have never worn a uniform or been called to a place or scene of violent confrontation, rarely by the officers the ranks who actually protect and serve -- the result is havoc and chaos, the very opposite of law and order.
It is a sign of a setback in democratic progress when these demagogues find a platform, such as they have been given by corporate media in recent years. But it is not an end to the democratic process.
I'm grateful to Mr. Frost for the reminder that all this is nothing new, that it has been around for a long time -- and that we can survive it, we can endure it, we can overcome it. The times of fear and hatred produce acts of violence, such as happened yesterday, followed by a loss of credibility of those who advocate such things in the abstract.
Men and women of reason -- people like Mr. Frost and, yes, Mr. Slater -- find their voices in times like these and step forward to debate and defeat the know-nothings who would be kings. When the Mr. Bliss's of today -- Ms. Palin and her ilk -- tell the voters they see weeds and dirt, the citizenry learns how blind these men and women really are and finds the better alternative leaders on offer.
Perhaps good will come from yesterday's tragedy, perhaps there will be a turning away from hate and violence as an attractive political platform.