What do people with truly evil thoughts like Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) do when they retire from Congress? One hopes she just fades away but that is likely wishful thinking.
I spent the week in Rehoboth Beach, Del., and had coffee with friends Keith Brengle and Kevin Keller who were there to care for Keith’s parents. Keith threw out this question in a joking way but it is more than that. There just seem to be so many people whose hearts are filled with hatred who are given the opportunity to spout that hatred in the national media. Bachmann is just one example of that breed — a woman with no real accomplishments yet an oversized ego that can attract attention. Bachmann has been in Congress since 2006 with not one bill she sponsored signed into law. That is sad for constituents who elected her believing that she would do something to earn her salary.
What she has accomplished as an acolyte of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is convince the Republicans in the House of Representatives to scuttle any chance of an immigration bill or funding to deal with the children crossing our borders illegally to escape dangers in their home countries. She was a member of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, which some say actually called into question the committee’s name. But the reality is she attracted attention and the hatred she spewed against the LGBT community and so many others got her enough followers that she even had a thankfully short-lived presidential campaign.
She is only one of many that raise the question of what happens to their evil ways when they retire. With a 24-hour news cycle, a beast that must be constantly fed, these haters like Bachmann continue to get attention. Sarah Palin is another example of someone thrust into the national media spotlight based on zero accomplishments and who has managed to stay in the public eye by making outrageous and often hateful statements while accomplishing nothing. Another one not yet retired who spreads hate as a way to draw attention is Ann Coulter. Someone who seems intent on getting her name on that list is Maureen Dowd, who writes columns for the New York Times. Dowd, once well respected, seems to have discovered that if she spews enough hatred she gets more attention.
To answer the question: Evil doesn’t ever really go away. Even when the evil is so egregious that you would think what the person did can never again happen, like a Hitler, we see the likes of Saddam Hussein and Bashar al-Assad rise to power. When Joe McCarthy finally died many thought a senator spewing hate like that couldn’t appear again and yet today we have Sen. Cruz who is doing his best to match McCarthy.
What we can be thankful for is that for every person spewing evil there are those that spread love and acceptance. For every Phyllis Schlafly and Jerry Falwell there is a Gloria Steinem and a Bella Abzug. For every Anita Bryant there is a Harvey Milk and Barney Frank.
There are heroes who the world can look up to who have led people from despair to hope; from Moses and Mahatma Gandhi to Martin Luther King, Jr. There are those who served in Congress who spoke up for what is right and made themselves heard across racial and gender biases including Barbara Jordon (D-Texas) and Shirley Chisholm (D-N.Y.). For every Michele Bachmann there is a Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.).
But the spreading of evil will never disappear even when one of those who spreads it retires or dies. Today in our world of social media the message of the haters gets amplified more than it ever has before. We can only be thankful that the majority of people actually have love rather than hate in their hearts. They are open to listen and change, and to acceptance and the willingness to see the good in all people. We just need to make sure that when we see evil in the world we call it out. That when we see and hear someone spreading evil we call them out and counter it with a message of love and positivity.