EDITORIAL: The culture of threats
"Lock her up."
"You'd be in jail."
"All of those liars will be sued."
Just words, right? Sticks and stones and all that.
Until they're not.
"YOU'RE DEAD. WATCH YOUR BACK."
"WE WILL BURN YOU DOWN."
"YOU SHOULD BE PUT IN FRONT OF A FIRING SQUAD AS A TRAITOR."
Those were the words seen and heard at The Arizona Republic after the paper endorsed Hillary Clinton, the first time the conservative paper in Phoenix ever endorsed a Democrat.
"NAZI REPUBLICANS LEAVE TOWN"
Those were the words spray painted on a wall at a GOP headquarters in North Carolina that was firebombed on Oct. 15.
"You look like a Democrat."
"She'd better not come to York County."
Those are words heard by local activists manning the Democratic Party tent at the York Fair and making calls on behalf of Hillary Clinton's campaign.
There was a time when friends, even family members, could disagree about politics and still sit down and have reasonable discussions about the issues of the day. Sure, minds might not have changed, but people talked, let others talk, found common ground, agreed to disagree, and remained friends.
And then there's the election of 2016.
"For your crimes against the American people, ... you have been put on #TheList."
Those words are in an email sent to journalists who have reported on #TheList, a list cited on a Twitter account that has been deleted that tweeted out photos of media figures with red X's over their faces for "conspiring to disinformation to the American people."
“Nazi, Slavers, Rapists, Cross-Worshippers== GOP.”
“Look Out Toomey and Your Neo Nazi Republicans.”
“#Americans Against the Republican Party.”
Those words were graffitied last weekend on the homes of the neighbors of Republican Sen. Pat Toomey in Zionsville, Lehigh County.
Now, officials are moving polling places out of schools or calling off classes on Election Day because they're afraid there will be arguments or even violent encounters on Nov. 8.
“We were mostly concerned because of the risk that it puts our children in,” said Sara Andriotis, a mother in Easton, Northampton County, where schools will be closed for Election Day.
Around the country, officials are making plans for Election Day that go beyond the norm of setting up voting machines securely and making sure poll workers have plenty of coffee and doughnuts.
While police will not be a presence at polling places — that would be voter intimidation — police departments will be aware. Local political parties will be monitoring voting sites.
Everyone will be on edge.
“I will totally accept the results of this great and historic presidential election — if I win."
Those words were spoken by Republican candidate Donald Trump last week at a rally in Ohio. During the final presidential debate, Trump refused to say he would accept the outcome of the election.
Sticks and stones. But words can encourage others to pick up those sticks and stones and use them against those they perceive as the enemy.
In a civilized democracy, people can have differing opinions on politics and still respect each other. They have respect for the institution of democracy, and they have enough respect for themselves and their own opinions to believe that they can win a fair election without resorting to threats.
As a country, we need leaders who use their words wisely and encourage their supporters to respect the opposing views.
And on Nov. 9, we need to begin healing the wounds this election has opened.