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A Dangerous Kind of Hate

By Colbert I. King
Saturday, September 12, 2009

On Aug. 16, pastor Steven L. Anderson of Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe, Ariz., told his congregation that he prays for the death of President Obama. In a sermon titled "Why I Hate Barack Obama," Anderson preached: "I'm not going to pray for his good, I'm going to pray he dies and goes to hell."

Anderson is not the only man of the cloth to wish widowhood upon Michelle Obama. In June, the Rev. Wiley Drake of First Southern Baptist Church in Buena Park, Calif., said he was praying for the president's death.

Anderson, however, was explicit in his wish. "I'd like him to die of natural causes. I don't want him to be a martyr; we don't need another holiday. I'd like to see him die, like Ted Kennedy, of brain cancer."

I pray God will not answer their petitions. While I'm at it, I'm going to send up one for the men and women of the Secret Service who endeavor to protect the nation's 44th president and his family.

There's something loose in the land, an ugliness and hatred directed toward Barack Obama, the nation's first African American president, that takes the breath away. The thread of resentment is woven through conservative commentary, right-wing radio and cable TV shows, all the way to Capitol Hill.

Look back to Obama's speech to a joint session of Congress Wednesday night and South Carolina Republican Joe Wilson's crude "you lie" shout. Witness the boorish behavior in the GOP seats.

They are an inspiration to Obama-haters.

It's not just those calling on God to harm the president who cause worry; consider what comes with the territory.

The day after Anderson's "I Hate Barack Obama" sermon, Chris Broughton, a member of Anderson's congregation, appeared at Obama's speech in Arizona with an AR-15 and a pistol -- not to harm the president, Broughton said, but to exercise his constitutional right to have weapons.

Then there are the walking time bombs.

Richard Poplawski of Pittsburgh slept with a gun under his pillow, hated Jews, feared Obama was scheming to take away his guns, and thought Obama got good press because he was black. In April, Poplawski showed he meant business. He fatally shot three police officers and wounded a fourth when they showed up at his house in response to a 911 call. Then there's George Sodini, who went to a Bridgeville, Pa., health club in August, opened his gym bag, pulled out a weapon and shot and killed three women and wounded nine others. Sodini had planned the shooting for the summer, but delayed because, as he wrote on his Web site, he wanted to "stick around to see the [presidential] election outcome."

Sodini wrote of Obama: "The liberal media LOVES him. Amerika has chosen The Black Man."

Sodini's writings revealed his contempt for black men and for white women whom he believed were beyond his reach. He wrote that, "dem white hoez dig da bruthrs! LOL. More so than they dig the white dudes! Every daddy know when he sends his little girl to college, she be [reference to sexual act] a bruthr real good. I saw it. Black dudes have their choice of the best white hoez."

Inflamed by sexual rejection and his hatred of black men, Sodini opened fire on those attending a fitness class filled with white women he apparently couldn't have.

Okay, now let me have it: "King, you're generalizing, making a big story out of small, isolated examples. People like Anderson, Broughton and Drake, and shooters Poplawski and Sodini, are kooks, representing no one but themselves. Most people who oppose Obama don't want him dead. They wish him and his family no physical harm." I won't argue with that.

What I will say, however, is that a lot of malicious words have been thrown around about Obama since his election: words that inflame and that inspire the kind of hatred spewed from those two Arizona and California pulpits.

Right-wing ranters don't regard the president as a political opponent. Barack Obama, in their minds, is the enemy. He is, to them, dangerous and harmful to the country.

Do the Andersons and Drakes have a right to say they hate Obama and want him to die? Yes. Did Poplawski and Sodini have a right to trash the "liberal" press and expound their racist views? You bet.

Still, the depth of the hostility is extraordinary.

From a right-wing talk show host who opposed allowing students to see the president's education speech: "Make September 8 Parentally Approved Skip Day. You are your child's moral tutor, not that shady lawyer from Chicago." And from a parent's e-mail to a Florida TV station's Web site: "This is exactly how Hitler rose to power in Germany, by preaching to those most vulnerable members of society."

Smears? Paranoia? It's all sweet music to the ears of Lee Harvey Oswald wannabes.

If the president of the United States ever needed heartfelt prayers, it's now.

kingc@washpost.com

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