Inflamed rhetoric

To the Editor:

The murders at a Colorado Planned Parenthood office last week should cause each of us to consider what really has happened and what we should do about it.

Planned Parenthood offices are women’s health care facilities. In many respects, they are no different than the Woman’s Health Center on Main Street in Bar Harbor.

Imagine that wonderful shingle-style building with a fortress-like front. Imagine that, like many Planned Parenthood offices, it needed “safe” rooms for staff and patients to hide in the event of an assault. Would you consider going to a medical office that needed an extensive array of high tech security cameras, a closet of bulletproof vests and security guards? One with people frequently standing outside holding garish props and yelling at women as they enter and exit the building for their health care? Would we be okay with that in our community? Would we want to live with the constant danger of violence in our midst?

For far too long, many state and national Republican politicians, now including all presidential candidates and their media advocates, have deliberately created a climate of fear and loathing about Planned Parenthood. In recent months, they have taken to repeatedly using surreptitiously recorded and deceptively altered audio and video to claim that Planned Parenthood programs are almost entirely about providing abortions. They allege Planned Parenthood personnel illegally sell fetal body parts for research purposes. They are demonstrably wrong on all counts, and they know it.

It is the latest in a seemingly endless series of ginned-up controversies perfectly calibrated to inflame passions. An outraged populace is one that can be more easily manipulated, and that’s why it’s being done to us.

Toxic campaigns of this sort almost unfailingly inspire violence. It is so common a cycle that continued inflammatory political grandstanding has to be considered a contributory cause of the harassment and terrorism at women’s health centers all over this country.

Here are other examples of violence that has happened at other Planned Parenthood (PP) offices:

October 2015: Claremont, N.H., office vandalized

September 2015: Pullman, Wash., arson, a repeat attack

August 2012: Grand Chute, Wis., office bombed

April 2012: Bloomington, Ind., vandalism with an axe

January 2012: Pensacola, Fla., firebombing a clinic previously firebombed, and the site of two prior murders

January 2009: Minneapolis, Minn., clinic rammed with vehicle.

The list goes on and on, including multiple murders and maiming in two different Boston area offices in 1994.

It is time for us each to make it clear that it is no longer acceptable for politicians to willfully deploy lies and engage in exploitative, extremist rhetoric on this or any other topic of importance to our country. We must no longer passively accept the behavior of politicians and allied advocates who yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater and then profess innocence when people are trampled. Rhetoric does matter, and they know it. It’s why they use it. But they are using it in a corrosive fashion that is damaging the fabric of our society.

Please let candidates and your representatives know that at a minimum you expect them to display reason, tolerance, mutual respect and truthfulness, and you expect them to work to solve real problems and genuine differences, not create or posture about fake controversies. If they don’t, send them home the next time you vote. If their tactics stop working, the behavior will stop.

And since this is the season of giving, after you contact your representatives, you might consider making a donation to Planned Parenthood. All the security they have to buy must be very expensive.

Gail Marshall

Mount Desert


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