The producers of a popular television swords and sorcery mini-series took pleasure in pointing out that one of the severed heads of traitors depicted in the film was a model of former President George W. Bush.
Television talk host Joy Behar doesn't approve of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's limited government philosophy. So she told an interviewer she'd like to see "one of his million houses burning down. Who is he going to call, the Mormon fire patrol?"
It seems all the calls for a "new civility" in politics only apply to commentary directed at Democrats and like-minded liberals. But it's still open season on Republicans and conservatives.
Don't like President Bush or Republicans in general? Feel free to march down the street carrying signs depicting Bush as Hitler and calling for his murder. Then have your Hollywood producer friends stick a replica of the president's head on a pike for their film. What fun!
Think Mitt Romney is too rich, even though his net worth is in the same nine-figure ballpark as one-time failed Democratic presidential contender John Kerry's? Then it's fine to suggest that one of his "million houses" burn down. Toss in a crack about the "Mormon fire patrol" for bonus religious bigotry points.
The Democrats' call for a return to civility was never serious. It was a political ploy, a cheap attempt to gain advantage from the despicable shooting of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and others at a Tucson shopping plaza in January 2011.
The left was quick to blame former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin for the shooting due to a map she had produced placing targeting crosshairs over the districts of lawmakers — including Giffords — she hoped to see unseated in midterm elections. Some on the left quickly jumped to the conclusion that the Palin map, as well as the "heated rhetoric" of right-wing commentators and the Tea Party movement, must have motivated the shooter.
It turned out that the shooter, Jared Lee Loughner, was a mentally ill person who had been terrorizing fellow students at his community college with his irrational raving.
Regardless of the truth about Loughner, Democrats soon began to call for a new civility in the nation's politics — a call they ignored from the outset.
While the Democrats' motives were suspect, they were essentially correct. We do need to return to civility in our politics. But all must agree to adopt a more civil tone.
There is nothing wrong with being critical of a president's policies, whether that president is George W. Bush or Barack Obama. That criticism and political discussion is healthy and should be encouraged. But to depict a president as Hitler or to display his head on a pike, or to accuse Obama of being a secret Muslim carrying out some nefarious plot — that is merely disrespectful and wrong.
There will always be nuts on the fringes of America politics, left and right. And no amount of reasoning will dissuade them from their lunacy. But when the disrespect becomes mainstream, then we have a serious problem.
Surely Americans of good will can disagree about politics, without, frankly, being jerks about it.