Asheville arrest triggers old fears for African-Americans

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No one really knows what on earth possessed Joseph Sean McVey to camp out in an airport parking lot hours after President Obama had departed from his weekend R&R stop in Asheville, North Carolina. Still, McVey did not appear to be the usual the run of the mill crackpot. His car was equipped with standard police gear, with a mounted digital camera, a hand-held scanner, and a rifle complete with scope formulas. Apparently none of this was illegal since McVey was said to be a member in good standing of the sheriff’s volunteer emergency rescue team unit in the North Carolina County. While we hope the ongoing investigation will shed some light on McVey’s true intent, the image of an armed man at Obama’s airport evokes a certain deep-seeded fear, particularly amongst people of color—who are no strangers to violence perpetrated on their heroes.

A non-stop legion of tweets, paranoid crackpot websites and posts, even a Facebook poll have toyed with the notion of the president’s assassination. Meanwhile, loose tongued quips from fringe preachers and Tea Party activists calling for harm to President Obama are a scary and dangerous testimony to the danger that exists. The same day McVey was nabbed a pack of Texas lawmakers including Texas governor Rick Perry, who harbors presidential aspirations of his own, were variously railing at President Obama as a demon, a curse on America, and likening Tea Party activists to the second coming of Moses leading the flock out of bondage.

The Secret Service has spent countless hours tracking down the threats, gauging the seriousness of the threats, and identifying and monitoring the storehouse of violent prone groups and loose hinged individuals who have expressed hate toward the president. The health care debate ratcheted up the danger level. Internet chat rooms and websites pulsated with saber rattling calls for mayhem and murder against congressional Democrats that backed the health care bill and of, course, President Obama. The Joker posters, the Confederate flags, the Texas Lone Star flag, and the badly scrawled and lettered signs bad-mouthing, mocking and ridiculing Obama were and are ubiquitous. The even more scary thing about all this is the deafening silence toward (or half-hearted, weak kneed disavowal of) the bigotry and borderline incitement to violence that lurk dangerously close to the surface among untold numbers of fringe and not-so-fringe Tea Party activists and assorted hate mongers.

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The McVey apprehension and the festering, paranoid climate of hate that’s boiled to a feverish pitch in more than a few circles on the right with President Obama as the most visible and loathed target among them is not new. The danger flags around Obama flew high from the moment that he announced he would seek the presidency in February 2007. He had the dubious distinction of being the earliest presidential contender to be assigned Secret Service protection on the campaign trail. That didn’t ease the jitters over his safety. At the time, Mississippi Congressman Bennie Thompson fired off a letter to Secret Service officials practically demanding that the Secret Service provide all the resources and personnel it could to insure Obama and the other presidential candidates safety. Thompson heard the whispers and nervous questions from his constituents about Obama’s safety.

As the showdown with Republican presidential rival John McCain heated up in the general election in 2008, the flood of crank, crackpot, and screwball threats that promised murder and mayhem toward Obama continued to pour in. This prompted the Secret Service to tighten security and take even more elaborate measures to insure his safety. This seemed to offer assurance that the government was doing everything humanly possible to insure his safety. This was especially important given the deep doubt and even paranoid suspicion that some blacks have that shadowy government agencies were complicit in the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the fervent belief of millions of other Americans that the CIA or other shadowy government agencies were deeply complicit in the killing, if not outright murder of JFK.

Any other time and with any other president, the puzzling escapade at the North Carolina airport by McVey might be shrugged off as just that, the confused action of an unsteady mind. But this is not another time and another president. He’s one who has been the butt of every dig, insult, and knock that sick minds have conjured up about a president. The sad and even scarier part of this is that those individuals aren’t going away.