Certain words, phrases, and actions are incendiary and cause controversy when invoked because they are exclusively applied to a certain group of individuals and imply a desire to do harm or violence.
Lynching targets African Americans and gassing brings to mind Jews and "the final solution" in Hitler's concentration camps; even casual jokes about rape target women and girls, rarely males.
So when Jay Townsend, an experienced political operative who ran against Chuck Schumer for the Senate seat for New York, posted a comment on a Facebook discussion page about hurling acid at female Democratic senators, he knew he would rile people up.
And he knew very well that it would invoke images of acid attacks, those heinous crimes in which women and girls are doused or sprayed with acid by men whose objective is to oppress and subjugate females in so-called 'traditional' societies.
Certainly political exchanges get heated. But Townsend most recently has been aligned with the re-election campaign of Rep. Nan Haywood, a Republican who represents the 19th Congressional District of New York which encompasses the lower Hudson River Valley.
He has, in fact, been serving as her spokesperson.
So when a public figure who is associated with a female member of Congress invokes an image of an acid attack on those women he politically opposes, isn't he promoting a form of violence against women? And wouldn't you think that perhaps his candidate would come out strongly against his statement and say that violence against women -- implied in any form -- is unacceptable?
Townsend posted the 'hurl acid' statement back in May and it made headlines last Friday. Not only was Townsend vilified in the blogosphere, but Hayworth was criticized for not saying anything.
After a weekend of steady activity in social media circles with the story shared on Facebook and Twitter, Townsend has issued an apology that many still criticize but which is at least adequate...while Hayworth's campaign merely responded by pointing fingers and claiming "it's the media's fault" for turning this into something big.
The representative herself has yet to speak out on the issue...although she scrubbed her Facebook page clean of the hundreds of critical comments about her non-response.
When I initially shared the story on Facebook, I wrote, "Every time I've written about those men in certain Middle East nations who throw acid on schoolgirls and teachers to stop them from obtaining an education, I've thought to myself that we're so fortunate to have none of that nonsense happening here. Alas, I was woefully naive and not aware of what the GOP was up to."
I want to edit the above statement because this is not a story about the entire GOP, but merely one ill-spoken individual who should have known better. I don't see this as part of the "war on women" but one stupid misstep by a man who forgot he wasn't just a private citizen shooting off his mouth. As the publicly identified spokesperson of an elected official, Townsend should be held to a higher standard of behavior and not act as a provocateur or advocate of violence against women -- even if it was "not meant to be taken literally" as the Haywood campaign claims.
The good news is that Townsend has "manned up" and taken responsibility for his comments. The bad news is that Rep. Hayworth, the woman he serves as spokesperson, hasn't disavowed his comments or reprimanded him in any way.
This is not the type of woman I want representing me in Congress.
With only 16% of Congress represented by female members, she needs to do much better so that more women can join the ranks and improve that lopsided statistic. By failing to act decisively, she fails not only her constituents but women across the nation whose best interests she should be serving...not ignoring out of cowardice. If her silence continues, she might as well kiss her seat in Congress goodbye.
UPDATE: Shortly after I posted the above, Townsend submitted his resignation (follow the link below for details.) Haywood has yet to say anything publicly about the incident, choosing instead to let her campaign team do the talking.
For the entire story, read: