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Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley suggested that AIG executives should take a Japanese approach toward accepting responsibility for the collapse of the insurance giant by resigning or killing themselves.It's one thing for bloggers to blow off steam by saying people should be roughed up or strapped in the electric chair or whatever. That's pretty much the equivalent of a guy going into a bar after work and grumbling that he'd like to punch his fool boss in the jaw. (Don't forget, though, in Canada, it's comments such as those that get you dragged in front of a government tribunal.) But for a lawmaker to start tossing off such comments indicates a serious coarsening of public discourse. In a country which still is majority Christian, I am really shocked that a senator would recommend something as heinous as suicide. It would be no more shocking to me to hear him say, "I think the pregnant wives of these executives should be forced to abort their babies as suitable penance." That's how vile a suggestion of suicide is, and coming from a person in authority, it's another signpost on the path to complete darkness, which I expect will be followed by a matching degeneration in public behaviour.
The Republican lawmaker's harsh comments came during an interview with Cedar Rapids, Iowa, radio station WMT on Monday. They echo remarks he has made in the past about corporate executives and public apologies, but went further in suggesting suicide.
"I suggest, you know, obviously, maybe they ought to be removed," Grassley said. "But I would suggest the first thing that would make me feel a little bit better toward them if they'd follow the Japanese example and come before the American people and take that deep bow and say, I'm sorry, and then either do one of two things: resign or go commit suicide.
"And in the case of the Japanese, they usually commit suicide before they make any apology."
Indeed, it's already starting:
:A tidal wave of public outrage over bonus payments swamped American International Group yesterday. Hired guards stood watch outside the suburban Connecticut offices of AIG Financial Products, the division whose exotic derivatives brought the insurance giant to the brink of collapse last year. Inside, death threats and angry letters flooded e-mail inboxes. Irate callers lit up the phone lines. Senior managers submitted their resignations. Some employees didn't show up at all.
"It's a mob effect," one senior executive said. "It's putting people's lives in danger."
Well, why shouldn't mobs start forming? When you have senators telling people that a lot of their problems would be solved by the DEATHS of certain troublemakers, why be surprised when people take that as a go-ahead to inflict a little authorized mayhem? And if they didn't get the message when Grassley delivered it, Barney Frank reinforced it when he smirked at death threats against AIG executives and family members were read aloud to him.
We're endlessly told that dehumanizing talk is the prelude to violence, and the example given is the Holocaust. But the "dehumanizing talk" that caused the most destruction was the stuff that came from the people in authority. Hans stomping into the Weinstube and grumbling that his boss Mr. Rosenstein was a tight-fisted *** bastard didn't do anything but cause people standing around to roll their eyes and tell him to have another beer and he'd feel better. Hitler announcing that Jews and Communists were conspiring to overthrow society for their own selfish gain was what caused the damage: after all, he must know, mustn't he? He's in the government, he gets all the secret information ordinary citizens never see. If the Fuehrer says it, who are we to disagree? And the next step is to help the government by properly punishing these enemies, in the knowledge that there will be no reprisals.
I think that this sort of public coarsening will be seen as a first step to the destruction of the U.S. as a free society, and its replacement by a fascist one. When people grow accustomed to talk of violence, they won't be so surprised when they hear that business deals - business deals - are beginning to be occasions for fisticuffs and brawls. Then public riots will make it clear what happens to anyone who is unfortunate enough to catch the eye of the government, and can be turned into the next public scapegoat. Then before you know it, you're in a state which is being run via murders and brutality, and everyone is either compromised or too scared to do anything about it.