05/03/2005: Why this country's in the toilet and swirling.....
One recent dreary midnight, coming down with a cold and unable to sleep, I lay in bed listening to a call-in talk show from KOA, Denver's clear channel AM radio station. The topic for an hour's discussion, chosen by program host John Caldera, was whether or not it was appropriate to spit a mouthful of tobacco juice and saliva into the face of Jane Fonda.Not that this redeems Caldera, much:
In Kansas City, Missouri earlier that same day, a man claiming to be a Vietnam veteran stood in line at Fonda's book signing, waiting for the opportunity to spew into the actress's face the gob of juice from tobacco he had been chewing in preparation for his attack. Reports from the scene noted that after wiping the yellow-brown slime from her face, Jane Fonda continued signing books. The spitter was arrested, and calling the target of his gooey blast a "traitor," said he was very pleased with himself for what he had done.
Most who dialed up the Caldera program said they believed spitting on Ms. Fonda was not only justified, but even perhaps an act of heroic proportions. To his credit, Caldera disagreed and made strenuous efforts to enlighten his angry callers, although most of them seemed content with their view that to the spitter belong the spoils. When host Caldera asked one gentleman caller how he'd feel if someone spat tobacco juice in the caller's wife's face and mouth, the caller responded that he hadn't thought about it that way. Still, because of her trip to Hanoi over 30 years earlier, Fonda was fair game for spitters.
Considerable responsibility for the current climate of anger and hostility in America rests on the shoulders of the many talk show personalities who, hour on hour, deliberately stir their listeners' negative emotions through argument, name-calling, deliberate misstatement of facts. Unfortunately on the night in question, John Caldera was no exception. Although he strongly denounced the spitting incident, he repeatedly called Jane Fonda a "traitor," making occasional suggestions about how she might atone for her perceived transgressions. He suggested that there may be no statute of limitations for traitors, implying that callers who also found her actions traitorous could bring her to justice in the courts.
As Caldera saw it, Jane Fonda was a traitor who should be dealt with according to the laws governing traitors, but she should not have to suffer the insult of being spat upon.
It was mildly amusing to hear grown men attempt to justify their pro-spit stance with various inane rationalizations. Amusing, that is, until one caller calmly hinted at an act not previously raised during the evening's discussion. With apparent sincerity, this particular fellow said he'd gladly wait 90 minutes in line for the opportunity to spit in Jane Fonda's face. But, he added, spit would not be his weapon of choice.
Caldera, a skilled performer, gradually drew forth from this possible stalker a desire to kill Jane Fonda. The man would not, however, risk killing her up close and personal while she was autographing his copy of her new autobiography.
What would you do? asked Caldera.
With calm dispassion, the caller replied, "I'd stand outside across the street and 'plink' her when she left the bookstore."
"So you would kill Jane Fonda," Caldera said.
The caller answered, "In a heartbeat."
Caldera paused dramatically and then went to commercial. What interested me was that at no time did Caldera appear to denounce the murder-minded caller's interest in killing a well-known public figure. Possibly the popular radio host did not wish to further inflame the caller, whose emotionless threat might have found many listeners in agreement with his deadly sentiments.
Len on 05.03.05 @ 12:28 PM CST