Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Go to Republican Campaign Event -- Get Mugged

When University of Virginia law student Mike Stark kissed his wife and baby daughter good-bye and left the house this morning, I'm sure he never imagined that simply showing up at a political campaign appearance would get him mugged -- and certainly not by individuals called "Allen's people" by CNN.

But that's exactly what happened when Stark, a 38-year-old Veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a Progressive writer, went to a public campaign stop for Republican Senator George Allen at the Omni Charlottesville Hotel to ask him some questions. After asking Allen a question, Stark was set upon by multiple men, put in a head-lock, wrestled to the ground and almost flung through a plate-glass window. You can see the video from WVIR-TV here and CNN video here.

The attackers were also identified as Allen staffers by WVIR, though the report inaccurately refers to the incident as a "fight" when it was Stark who was attacked.

"I am a constituent. I am allowed to ask my U.S. senator questions," Stark said later in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.

"I will be pressing charges against George Allen and his surrogates later today," said Stark in an e-mail interview. "George Allen, at any time, could have stopped the fray. All he had to do was say, 'This is not how my campaign is run. Take your hands off that man.' He could have ignored my questions. Instead he and his thugs chose violence. That is not the America I love."

What happened shouldn’t really surprise anyone who's been watching the vision that Republicans have for how America operates now -- you know, civil rights and Constitutional protections be damned -- and who have observed the campaign of someone like George Felix Allen in particular.

After all, the last time a young Virginian dared to show up at another public event for Allen with a video camera, the GOP Senator himself referred to the man of Indian descent as "Macaca" (monkey) and gave him a demeaning "welcome to America" even though young SR Sidarth is a born-and-bred U.S. citizen.

Must have been the brown skin that threw Allen off.

So no matter how repulsive the assault on Stark is, it shouldn't really come as surprise at this point. If you commit the offense of coming to an Allen event in skin that isn’t white, you can pretty much bet a racial slur will come your way and if, heaven forbid, you should have the temerity to ask a tough question that may offend Allen and some of his weak-ass followers, you can count on getting jumped faster than the GOP can swiftboat a Veteran.

And it had to be tough for Stark, as a former Marine, to keep his cool and not slap Allen's faux thugs around as he most assuredly could have. While we Navy guys tend to get flabby within a week of leaving boot camp, Marines always seem to look like they could still fit into their original-issue uniform and I've yet to meet one who isn’t still capable of putting the smack-down on people like those who ganged up on Stark earlier today.

But it's just as well that Stark had the self discipline -- much like Allen's opponent, Jim Webb, also a former Marine -- to just let the idiots do their dirty work and allow the usurping of his civil liberties be the story and not how he beat up some of Allen's stooges.

Sadly, this is in many ways, a snapshot of the America that George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and the GOP majority in Congress have in mind if they're allowed to stay in power. They can spy on you without required court orders, they can suspend Constitutional rights that have governed our country for well over 200 years and they can even sic the thugs on you if you show up at a public place and utter words they do not like.

And it's important to remember that this is not just about Mike Stark -- it's about all of us as Americans. Because when Stark left his house today and went to the Allen event to simply ask a few question of a man running for public office, he thought he would be safe from harm. He thought he would be allowed to speak. He thought he could peacefully and calmly exercise those free speech rights without being jumped and almost thrown through a window.

Mike Stark thought he was in America.