One of the most important aspects of American democracy, at least in theory, is the notion that every citizen should be free to speak their mind, even if that includes making commentary that goes against the political leadership of this nation.
Sadly, in practice, that notion hasn’t always been protected. From the Alien and Sedition Acts passed early in our nation’s history, to “free speech zones” employed under the second Bush administration to cordon off detractors, criticism has been, at times, under threat from those who have sworn an oath to protect our values.
Criticism is attacked in another way: a person’s patriotism and loyalty to this nation is oftentimes questioned by those promoting the “party line,” as a means to attack a person’s integrity rather than defend a point of view. Case in point, Rep. Doug Collins (R-Georgia), who this week chastised Democrats for criticizing President Donald Trump’s actions against Iran.
Collins, who was speaking on the Fox Business channel with host Lou Dobbs Wednesday night, went after Democrats who blasted Trump’s decision to assassinate an Iranian military general by the name of Qasem Soleimani. Critics of Trump have not been defending Soleimani per se, but have questioned the rationale for the attack as well as whether any forethought was put into what would happen as a result of the order Trump gave.
Doug Collins: Democrats are "in love with terrorists, we see that they mourn Soleimani more than they mourn our gold star families." pic.twitter.com/hUIZVl2t3h
— nikki mccann ramírez (@NikkiMcR) January 9, 2020
It appeared that there wasn’t such regard for consequences whatsoever. Trump’s decision to kill Soleimani, in fact, came about in part because he was worried he looked weak when it came to dealing with Iran, sources in the White House have said.
Because of Democrats’ critiques, Collins took a harsh tone of his own toward those who dared to say Trump wasn’t acting in the best interests of our nation. Speaking to Dobbs, Collins insisted that Democrats “are in love with terrorists.”
“They mourn Soleimani more than they mourn our Gold Star families,” he added.
Which is a bold statement to make, given Trump’s own attacks on Gold Star widows and parents whose loved ones have perished while serving overseas.
Preet Bharara, a former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, condemned Collins’s remarks, calling him a “craven un-American ignorant asshole” in a tweet in response to the congressman’s words. A number of other users on social media had similar sentiments.
Collins is welcome, of course, to make his own criticisms of others who object to the president’s methods. He has the same rights as anyone else to express his viewpoints.
But it’s a much darker path to take, more sinister in nature, to unduly question the loyalty of others while making such statements. There is no indication whatsoever that Democrats side with terrorists — indeed, in official statements about the matter, while they have questioned Trump’s decision to kill Soleimani, Democrats have acknowledged that the Iranian military leader was a bad actor in the region, whose death was probably deserved.
Calling Democrats “in love with terrorists” is wrong, however, and not just because it’s inaccurate. It’s a statement whose sole purpose is to inspire hatred and anger toward others. It has no rhetorical importance, and it doesn’t contribute to the debate in a meaningful way. It’s said simply to make people’s blood boil, to create an “us vs. them” mentality.
In short, Collins’s remarks do not contribute to the marketplace of ideas, but rather cater to the lowest and most malicious forms of human instinct. To those who support his views or take him at his word, Collins is encouraging hatred and divisiveness — and possibly violence — and, as seen in the video of the interview, he’s chuckling at times while doing so.
Surely, Collins could have come up with a better defense for the president than to errantly suggest his detractors are siding with this nation’s enemies. But the congressman chose the lazy way out, opting to make his point in a way that should be viewed as reprehensible and downright disgusting.
Featured image credit: United States Congress/Wikimedia Commons