Tom Levenson of Balloon Juice datelines his post from the Lion Gate of Mycenae, where no little bloodletting began and ended (internal links copied from elsewhere in Tom’s post for clarity):
Wars are not Homeric poems, which is something Homer himself clearly understood, if Odysseus’s conversations with the heroes who preceded him into Hades offer any hint. They wreck people, and not simply those who are obviously war’s casualties. I’m not going to belabor that thought in this forum, because so many here know this as well or better than I.
So: idiots will be with us always, and two otherwise utterly inconsequential folks like Messrs. Nicholson and Davis—barely public figures at all—aren’t worth the spit it would take to express my true opinion.
No: what matters is that this kind of talk can’t take place without the tacit permission of actual leaders—informal ones, like Limbaugh, and the actual political actors on the right, figures like Boehner, McConnell, Cohen, Ryan, McCain, whoever. First among them, of course, is the man who would be president, Mitt Romney.
Leaders shape the frame of argument. They delineate the forms of dissent and opposition. They define, both by what they say and by what they fail to rule out, whether we have a small “r” republican approach to government, or rule by the manipulators of the manipulated mob. When they stay silent they are the cowards of the headline, passive bystanders as their followers betray the basic principles of (small “d”) democratic politics.
Greece is a good place from which to think about this. You don’t have to go back to Agamemnon or to Plato; living memory—the civil war, the colonels, very recent memory indeed offer regular reminders of the fragility of government by consent of the governed. Words matter here, and have for millennia.
So it is in this place, with that history in mind, that I am reminded once again that the habit of dismissing crap like that spewed by Nicholson and Davis as wingnuts being wingnuts is not acceptable. The speakers themselves may not count for much, but for a nominally civil society to allow such speech to pass without massive retaliation, actual leadership from those who would lead from that side…well, that’s how individuals get hurt, and democracies die. It’s happened before, not many miles from where I sit as I write this.
But … but … but … Rev. Wright!!111!!1eleventy