Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

February 25, 2014

Lion and the Lamb: Sticks, stones, and hurting words

By Ted Braun
Chronicle contributor

CROSSVILLE — Most of us have grown up knowing some version of that children's proverb "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words (names) will never hurt me."

We've been reminded of this proverb during the past several weeks, thanks to Ted Nugent, a rock-and-roll guitarist and composer who is a strong advocate of animal hunting, gun ownership, the right to self-defense, and other conservative political causes. He is also against public health care, do-nothing bureaucrats, and drug and alcohol use. As a reward for entertaining U.S. troops in Iraq in 2004, he was invited to visit Saddam Hussein's war room where he was heard to comment, "Our failure has been not to Nagasaki them." He is also a board member of the National Rifle Association and a strong supporter of the Tea Party.

Beyond these, he has become well-known for his aggressive, controversial, and frequently over-the-edge political statements such as calling women political leaders he disagrees with "worthless whores" and "shallow sluts," and suggesting that immigrants who are in the country illegally should be treated like "indentured servants" until they earn citizenship. (It is estimated that there are some 11.7 million illegal immigrants in our nation today.)

His most controversial statement of all, however, was made last month during an interview at a Las Vegas hunting and outdoor trade show, as recorded by Guns.com: "I have obviously failed to galvanize and prod, if not shame enough Americans to be ever vigilant not to let a Chicago communist-raised, communist-educated, communist-nurtured subhuman mongrel like the ACORN community organizer gangster Barack Hussein Obama to weasel his way into the top office of authority in the United States of America" That one sentence has provoked a veritable firestorm in our national conversation.

It's revealing that Nugent did not refer to Obama's ongoing support for our government's capitalist operations: for example, his decision not to confront and penalize the corrupt operations of Wall Street banks, his participation in the choosing of targets in our nation's drone killing program, and his turning over the planning and structuring of our new national health care program to the pharmaceutical and insurance companies.

But most serious of all was the defamatory and derogatory name "subhuman mongrel" that Nugent had used for Obama. This classification for black people has had a long history in our nation, becoming the justification for slavery, the hanging trees that had multiplied all over the South, and the imposition of continuing segregation.

There's no doubt that this name to describe Obama provided encouragement and legitimation for what happened on the campus of the University of Mississippi this past week. Near a monument honoring Confederate soldiers there is a bronze statue of the university's first black student, James Meredith, who enrolled in 1962 in the midst of rioting that left two people dead. Two unidentified men had placed a noose around the statue's neck and left a flag with the Confederate battle emblem.

This time, however, there was a counter-action indicating a rejection of Nugent's racist category. Fifteen fraternity presidents issued a joint statement condemning the act as "a disgusting representation of a racist few," and announced that they would expel any member who had participated in the act. Two members of the Sigma Phi Epsilon, a social fraternity on campus,have now been identified and expelled and could face criminal charges.

Although Nugent has had some defendants on behalf of free speech, public pressure has been building around the country calling for Nugent to apologize to the president. Finally Nugent said during an interview this past week with radio host Ben Ferguson, "I do apologize—not necessarily to the President—but on behalf of much better men than myself." I apologize "for using the streetfighter terminology of 'subhuman mongrel' instead of just using more understandable language, such as 'violator of his oath to the Constitution'."

It might be worthwhile to include some words that Nugent wrote back on July 30, 2010: "There always have been bad, ignorant people in the world. But in the United States of America, land of the free and home of the brave, the epicenter of rugged individualism founded on the premise of live free and die, where the powerful DNA of defiance got us where we are as the last, best place on Earth, the ultimate violation is that so many hardworking, truly entrepreneurial, independent Americans backed down and failed to stand up when we saw the wimps squawking about all the wrong stuff.

"Everything from the New Deal and the Great Society on has been a dismal and grossly counterproductive failure, yet we allow corrupt bureaucrats to keep jamming more of the same down our throats with barely a whimper of resistance. How pathetic. How lame. How un-American."

And so our national conversation about what needs to change continues. Perhaps this is a good time to zero in on one of the issues Nugent raises in his 2010 comments: determining what the "right stuff" and the "wrong stuff" are all about.