The Morin family's experiences with people who don't like their "Stop Obama" signs is merely the local symptom of a pendulum that has been swinging out of control across the nation for longer than anyone cares to remember.
The Sandusky family reports having their house egged, a window broken, phone calls tinged with race hate.
Meanwhile, across the nation, critics of President Barack Obama report they don't like being called racists simply because they're critics of Obama.
We'd have to agree. First black president of the U.S. he may be, the operative word is "president," which means Obama should be fair game as far as any of the criticism that goes with the job. It's 2009, and Dr. King's bit about color of skin vs. content of character should have long been a given. That cuts both ways; Obama's skin shouldn't shield him, either.
But we can't help but feel the shoe's on the other foot. For eight years, criticism of Obama's predecessor, George Walker Bush, was met with accusations of insufficient patriotism on the part of the critic -- seasoned occasionally by hints the critic might, just might, be on the side of the terrorists.
Nothing new there; people are alive today who remember the "soft on crime," "soft on drugs," "soft on communism," yada yada yada, accusations that greeted anyone who wasn't 100 percent, yes sir! behind whichever Republican administration was in office. Meanwhile, the other side of the spectrum had its war-monger brush ever-ready to paint those to the right of center. "In your guts," you knew Barry Goldwater was "nuts," right? Five. Four. Three. Two. One. Kaboom.
And, you know, that was never the worst of it. In fact, those who lament the modern turn toward incivility are frequently surprised to learn the early days of our Republic make today's political discourse look like the milquetoast it is. From near-duels on the floor of the Senate, to the accusations surrounding Thomas Jefferson's love child (they were right) or Andrew Jackson's wife or Abraham Lincoln's, well, just about anything, American politics has hardly been genteel.
Not that any of that should excuse anything. Time and again, we as a nation have appealed to and counted on our own better natures, and time and again, we've let ourselves down.
Wouldn't it be nice, for once, if we could engage each other with our brains instead of our baser instincts? Attack the problem instead of each other and come up with something that works to the satisfaction of the greatest number of people?
The way we've been doing has made for great columns, editorials, news copy, headlines, Sunday morning TV shouting matches and editorial cartoons, but is it really any way to run a society?