Back in the Vietnam War era, the left also used ugly language and resorted to violence. But the right, as is its wont, stripped the antiwar movement of its citizenship. It turned dissent into treason, which, in a way, was the worst treason of all. It made dissidents into the storied "other" who had nothing in common with the rest of us. They were not opponents; they were the enemy: Fire!I guess the lesson is tea partiers are about to go on some killing rampage, taking out presidents, civil rights leaders, gays, immigrants and abortion doctors. Except of course back in those halcyon days (or in Cohens's case, likely a halcyon daze) of Kent State it was Palestinians and Communist dupes taking out presidents and aspiring presidents.
On my bike, I recalled those days and wondered if they have not returned. Sticks and stones may break bones, but words -- that singsong rebuttal notwithstanding -- can kill. We lose presidents to words and civil rights leaders to words -- homosexuals and immigrants and abortion providers, too. Richard Nixon is named in the song because he was the president at the time and because his words were ugly. He was enthralled by toughness, violence.
I hear the song more clearly now than I ever did. It is a distant sound from our not-so-distant past, but a clear warning about our future. Four dead in Ohio. Not just a song. A lesson.
Memo to Cohen: You should wear a helmet when riding your tricycle. Falling on your head can be embarrassing. Especially when the next thing you hit is the keyboard.