The threat of political violence casts a shadow that never quite leaves the American landscape.
Its evil influence is evident in the vile telephone messages left for Sen. Patty Murray after the passage of the health care bill, allegedly by a Selah man.
The transcript of the recordings isn't appropriate anywhere, let alone the pages of a newspaper. We can't recall a more hate-filled and profanity-laced diatribe.
"Somebody is gonna get through your security and put a (expletive deleted) gun to your head, and hopefully I will be able to watch somebody blow your (expletive deleted) brains out," one message said.
Other threats were made against members of Congress over the health care bill, including at least one Republican opponent, but this one hits close to home.
Not only is our senator the victim of these death threats, but also the man accused of making the calls lives nearby.
Sadly, these incidents are excuses to elevate the rhetoric.
Some on the left are attempting to blame every critic of President Obama's policy for the violent acts of a few.
To some on the right, anyone who wonders about a rise in violence is guilty of political grandstanding.
Plenty of Republicans have condemned the threats against Murray. "Threats of violence have no place in our political process," said state party chairman Luke Esser.
But frankly, there ought to be a traffic jam on the entrance ramp for the high road on this issue. No decent person -- right or left -- ought to be looking for ways to make political points from this festering sore.
Americans are not strangers to violence tied to some political aim. It's manifested in inner-city riots that destroy property and lives. In the execution of civil rights advocates in Mississippi. In the bombing of churches and assaults on synagogues.
In the '60s, the counterculture's opposition to the establishment encouraged some at its fringes to bomb ROTC offices, rob banks and gun down police.
Timothy McVeigh, Charles Manson, Lee Harvey Oswald, Sirhan Sirhan, James Earl Ray -- their names immediately conjure up the crimes they committed in the name of some cause.
Symbionese Liberation Army, Aryan Nations, Black Panthers, White Panthers, Weather Underground, Animal Liberation Front -- the list is exhaustive.
The shadow lurks always, and darkens too many days, but it's not who we are. Americans are better than any lone nut or angry mob.
Violence against an individual is abhorrent. Regardless of motivtion, it's a violation of our right to carry out our lives unmolested and without fear.
Political violence is antithetical to the democratic process. It seeks to replace debate and the ballot box with intimidation and fear.
Whoever filled Murray's voice mailbox with death threats was trying to rob us all of our rights.
It doesn't matter whether you agree or disagree with health care reform or any other policy Murray supports. Violence aimed at suppressing anyone's political beliefs is a direct attack on the people's right to self-government.
Americans have never stood for that -- it's not who we are.