By Frank James
It's sad but not surprising that some of those protesting Saturday against health-care overhaul legislation literally spit on at least one congressman and shouted racial and homophobic epithets as well.
Some of us have long suspected that at least part of the opposition to the overhaul is part of the free-form hostility some Americans feel towards the political ascendancy of people who don't look like them or who have a different sexual orientation.
When anti-overhaul protesters start abusing African American lawmakers with the "n" word or gay lawmakers with the six letter "f" word, then it starts to appear that at least some of the opposition is rooted in something other than philosophical differences over individual mandates.
As the Washington Post reported:
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) issued a statement late Saturday saying that he was spit upon while walking to the Capitol to cast a vote, leading the Capitol Police to usher him into the building out of concern for his safety. Police detained the individual, who was then released because Cleaver declined to press charges.
"The congressman was walking into the Capitol to vote, when one protester spat on him. The congressman would like to thank the U.S. Capitol Police officer who quickly escorted the other Members and him into the Capitol, and defused the tense situation with professionalism and care," said Danny Rotert, a spokesman for Cleaver.
Protesters outside the Capitol hurled epithets at Reps. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and Andre Carson (D-Ind.) as they left the building after President Obama delivered an 11th-hour speech on behalf of the health care bill. Carson told reporters that protesters yelled "kill the bill," then used a racial epithet to describe Carson and Lewis, who is a revered figure on both sides of the aisle.
According to observers, Frank was confronted by about 100 protesters inside the Longworth House Office Building, where Democrats were huddling for another meeting about the legislation. Some targeted Frank with anti-gay epithets and urged him to vote against the bill.