Here’s one way to stop a bus full of nuns from rolling along on a nine-state tour in protest of Rep. Paul Ryan’s proposed Draconian budget cuts: Pull ‘em over, accuse them of throwing “the first punch” and “pistol whip” them.
Sister Simone Campbell (pictured right) is executive director of National Catholic Social Justice Lobby (NETWORK), an outfit of Catholic Sisters who recently came under Vatican scrutiny for focusing too much on issues like social and economic justice, rather than fighting abortion and marriage equality. The nuns know that Ryan’s proposal would disproportionately hit low-income Americans, so they’re speaking out against them.
Jan Mickelson, an influential talk radio host on Newsradio 1040 WHO in Iowa, thinks they should be stopped. “There’s a bus full of nuns headed towards Washington to lobby against the Ryan plan,” Mickelson said during a conversation with Rep. Tom Latham on Friday. “Do you have any power to pull the nuns on the bus over and pistol whip them?”
“They say he is evil, they say he is fake Catholic,” Mickelson added. “They’re the ones that threw the first punch.” Latham, a sitting U.S. congressman, could only muster a laugh. Listen to the exchange here:
If given the chance, it’s doubtful that Mickelson would do such a thing. Clearly his remarks are for comedic effect, part of his schtick, and anyone making the claim that he’s advocating violence against nuns would simply be ginning up an exaggerated metaphor.
Back in 2009 when I produced Lou Dobbs’ daily radio program, my host called Howard Dean “a bloodsucking leftist,” adding “I mean, you gotta put a stake through his heart to stop this guy.” His vampire joke missed the mark, and the syndication network was flooded with calls asking why they’d support a talker who advocated such violence. I can assure you Lou was kidding. After all, I voted for Howard Dean in 2004, I still like Howard Dean, and I would have quit had Lou been serious about tracking Dean down and driving a stake through his heart. The comments came anyway.
But such is the power of words. Such is the power of metaphor. In this case, let’s not get crazy and say ‘THIS MAN WANTS TO PISTOL WHIP NUNS … AND A CONGRESSMAN WILL LAUGH WHILE HE DOES IT!’
In this instance, it would be too easy to be outraged by Mickelson’s stunning lack of political correctness and miss what this episode is really telling us: that many right-wing radio hosts and Republican Congressmen these days are so hellbent on ripping up the social safety net and making drastic budget cuts to score political points that they would make unsavory jokes about nuns who care too much about the disadvantaged among us.
That says enough. No hyperbole needed.
For more, check out this al Jazeera English report: