There is no tragedy too severe, no outrage too deep, no crime too gruesome for the right-wing to exploit for their nefarious political purposes. Whether it is self-imposed carnage in Iraq, natural and man-made disaster in New Orleans or epidemics from AIDS to malaria, the bodies of the dead and wounded are merely convenient stepping-stones on the path to one aspect or other of the GOP agenda.
Locally, the right-radio-and-blog trafficking in human suffering usually features stories – real and imagined – from the inner city, a part of the world none of them care about, and understand even less. Every shooting, drug arrest and dropout is held out as evidence of systemic cultural deficiency that can only be cured by right-remedies such as profiteering "choice" "schools"; more arrests, (still) longer incarceration and, even, the death penalty; and, ultimately, the realization by the victims of the legacy of slavery, poverty and racism that they have victimized themselves.
This week, however, local nut-right radio lurched into previously uncharted territory when it latched on to a sad, violent incident in the white community and proceeded to play political games with it. No, I’m not talking about the guy who drove off the bluff in Shorewood, mere blocks from Plaisted Writes headquarters, although some did blab about that, to no real end. Rather, it was the murder of a 65 year-old choral singer from Whitefish Bay in a downtown parking ramp that mainstream radio wing-nuts Charlie Sykes and Jay Weber (at least) used to push – absurdly – legalizing the carrying of concealed weapons, a long-cherished NRA objective in Wisconsin.
The poor woman has not even been put to rest yet, but that didn't stop them from tramping over her memory and, no doubt, increasing the suffering and grief of her family by foolishly claiming that she could have saved herself if only she was allowed to pack heat. Imagine driving around making arrangements and gathering family for the services on Saturday and having to put up with this crap on your radio. African-Americans in town have had to tolerate this nonsense for years, but this could (and should) be considered out of bounds on the North Shore. Perhaps Sykes might catch a little blow-back on his next trip to Sendik’s. We could only hope.
The NRA talking-points read by both Sykes and Weber were identical: Elizabeth Witte might be alive today if she had a gun in her purse to protect herself. The whole premise is absurd. Murderous stalkers like her sick ex-husband don’t announce themselves, wave their knives up in the air and give her time to get the gun out, much less aim and shoot. The gruesome details in the complaint show that she never had a chance, armed or unarmed. To take these horrible facts and try to make political hay out of these circumstances is an outrage. In the pursuit of their right-wing agenda, Sykes and Weber went and pissed on her grave before she even got a chance to get buried in it.
Jay Weber is an annoying, interchangeable hack, but Charlie Sykes yearns for respectability. Although, as the golden boy of the Journal Company, he can get away with anything (such as calling Al Sharpton a pimp and Hillary Clinton a witch), he also savors his TV face-time, most recently offering campaign "analysis" on straight news programs (if you can still call the continuing deterioration of Channel 4 "straight news"). You wonder if it is really worth it for him to drive political points over the dead bodies of obviously beloved tragic victims like Elizabeth Witte.