A Desire To Preserve Public Civility

Most recent in the Richmond Times Dispatch, Lauren Berg of The Daily Progress writes (6-29-18, Charlottesville judge awards Unite the Right organizer Jason Kessler $5 for activist cursing at him): “A Charlottesville judge decided Friday that a local activist violated Virginia’s anti-dueling statute when she screamed curses at Jason Kessler. Kessler cited the statute in his $500 lawsuit against Donna Gasapo, whom he said used insulting language that tended toward violence and a breach of the peace. Kessler said he sued for a small amount of money based on the principle of the matter and a desire to preserve public civility. With dozens of supporters seated behind her in Charlottesville General District Court on Friday, Gasapo never denied yelling curse words at Kessler on March 16 outside of DeAndre Harris’ assault trial in the same courthouse. But her attorney said she was protected by the First Amendment to express rhetorical hyperbole and make exaggerated statements. Representing himself, Kessler argued that Gasapo’s words — “F— you … f— you, a—— … crybaby Kessler” — were fighting words and could have incited violence. In the video that Kessler played as evidence, Gasapo also can be heard calling Kessler a “murderer.” Kessler said Gasapo was falsely assigning him blame for the death of Heather Heyer, who was killed in a car attack on the day of the Unite the Right rally, which Kessler organized.” Following coverage of “both sides” (and the judge) Berg concludes with this from Gasapo’s attorney: ““I think we should all be very concerned about what this ruling means in terms of opening up other frivolous harassment suits against members of our community who are expressing their opinions and their very real feelings of frustration, which we believe are protected by the First Amendment,” she said.” The words of Gasapo’s attorney, Pam Starsia, skim the surface and steer well away from the depths. Analysis finds this symptomatic of our current, curious times. How so? Remember Cleveland’s John Demjanjuk? No, he didn’t play for the Browns. Who could forget the Ukrainian immigrant refugee who was stripped of US citizenship and eventually tried as an accessory to the murder of 28,000+ Jews during the Second World War? And who could forget John F Kennedy? What? What does Kennedy have to do with Kessler, or Demjanjuk? Historically, one of the pressing questions during his “time” running for president was whether or not his religion, Roman Catholic, would affect his ability to govern as a future president. This dogged his candidacy, as well as many others during and after his “time.” As late as 2012 the question arose regarding Mitt Romney being part of the LDS Church. Ideology, or in this case religion, matters. Numbers driven media covered recent events regarding the rather personal confrontation of various current administration officials on a number of issues – Sarah Sanders, Kirstjen Nielsen, etc. (described as “harassment”). “Let the folks eat, for gawd’s sake. They’re only following orders and doing their job.” cry the administration’s defenders. Ideology matters, not personality. Demjanjuk, and others of his generation, were dragged from nursing homes to stand trial for being personally responsible for the atrocities that occurred in WWII. Personality matters, not ideology. It’s the people who were driving the locomotives, manning the guard towers, and keeping the books who  were personally responsible for the evil perpetrated. So which is it – ideology or the persons who embody it and make it materially real? Taking his cue perfectly from the fascist playbook, Kessler has gaslighted his vigilant (and virulent) opponents by publicly and legally casting himself as innocent, bearing no responsibility for events of his own doing. “A desire to preserve public civility”?

 

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