Last night I was checking the voice mail messages, and came upon this one:

…(silence) … click…click…  “Hello, this is Newt Gingrich.  I’m sorry I missed you…. ”

I was shocked on multiple levels by this machine-generated political message on our answering device.

First, I was shocked, as I always am, by the contemporary assumption that it is all right for a company or a politician to invade what I still think of as “my space” with a recorded intrusion.  What happened to privacy?  Do the callers really think that I, or anyone, will sit still while a robot spouts a line?  Do people actually listen to such things?

Secondly, I was shocked that I, pretty near to being a “blue dog Democrat,” would get a call from Gingrich.  I know that there are a lot of Republicans in my adopted state of Florida, but they obviously do not have a list, and are not even checking it once.  Perhaps they are this desperate.

One can only hope that this is the case, because the deeper reason why this message shocked me is that, there, on my phone, was one of the most effective purveyors of violent and demeaning rhetoric to be found in today’s political circus!  I felt that I should wash out the phone, and check myself for signs of infection.

As Thich Nhat Hanh discusses in many of his books, we human beings nurture certain seeds in our hearts and minds by what we take into ourselves.  We can feed and strengthen the seeds of anger and violence that are within us by the TV shows, news and movies that we watch, by the web-sites we visit, by the conversations that we have, by what and how we eat, etc.  I think he is right.  And I think most of us do this unconsciously–that is, without thinking much about it, we are feeding our pet peeves and angers and unreasonable opinions with the “food” that makes them stronger.

What is so disturbing about Gingrich and some of the other “politicians” operating these days, is their feeding of the anger and violence that is lying not far beneath the surface in our society.  They are fanning the fire, for the sake of votes that will give them power.  Many say that this is “just rhetoric” and that such people, if elected, will not really behave as they speak.  But I think we are seeing these days just how untrue this assumption is.

Politicans playing wth anger and violence–and with fear–are not new, of course.  I just think that I, and other people of faith, rooted in traditions that fairly consistently speak of peace, need to find ways to speak out about this.