R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Crossing the line

Pamela Varkony Contributor
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Experienced political operatives often refer to the “T” in Pennsylvania. This has nothing to do with a beverage or new political movement and everything to do with the socio-economic demographics of the Commonwealth. The supposed wisdom of the “T” theory is that Pennsylvania is made up of the sophisticated, that’s political-speak for moderate/liberal, elements in and around Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, and divided by Alabama across the northern tier and down the middle of the state. No offense to Alabama, but I think the implication of the theory is that most of Pennsylvania is a bunch of blue collar, white, rednecks.

I’d like to come to the defense of my native state, but after last week’s latest embarrassment in the national spotlight, it’s a little hard to do, especially now that the Secret Service and FBI are involved in the incident.

In case you missed it, a PA based company, Goodtime Amusements, supplied a game called “Alien Attack” to a small-town fundraising carnival operated by the local Catholic Church. Roseto, PA, has made the news before: Years ago it was touted for the longevity of its mostly Italian residents. Was it their diet, was it something in the water, or was it genetics? The conclusion of the study conducted by University of Oklahoma was that people in Roseto lived to a ripe old age because of the love and support of family and their close-knit community.

Apparently the Montague’s and the Capulet’s must have moved in to town because a few days ago those loving Roseto souls were aiming a dart-shooting pistol at the heart and head of a likeness of President Obama holding a scroll marked “Healthcare Bill.”

For those of us who believe that the “Healthcare Reform Bill” is one of the single worse pieces of legislation ever passed in Washington, it’s mildly amusing to think of someone throwing foam darts at it and its creator, but the reality of the Roseto carnival game is not amusing nor is it anything even remotely appropriate for children.

I know there are arguments being made that this is a First Amendment issue and as a journalist, no one cares more about that inalienable right than I do. And I’ve also heard the counter-punch that worse things were done to likenesses of George W. Bush, and that if this incident had occurred several years ago with a cardboard cutout of number 43, the press wouldn’t have mentioned it.

That all may be true, but it’s not the point: The point is that two wrongs don’t make a right, and there are lines of civilized behavior and civil respect that should not be crossed. That game allowing children to shoot at the heart and head of the President crosses every line there is.

Let’s hope that most Pennsylvania families, many of whom belong to the NRA, where children hunt and own their own rifles, and where we are passionate about our Republican values, that what we’re “fighting” for has nothing to do with violence and everything to do with standing on principle. Educating ourselves to successfully argue our positions, and working within the system to change it is what we should be teaching our children. No matter how unpopular a president, respect is in order.

Pamela Varkony is a writer, commentator, and native Pennsylvanian. Her work has taken her across four continents including two fact-finding missions to Afghanistan. Her blog is: http://perspectives.pamelavarkony.com.