In reaction to Tucson's tragedy, Lower Saucon resident Gloria McVeigh (no relation to Timothy) decided last week to organize a peaceful protest outside State Rep. Joe Brennan's office. But instead of asking us all to be more civil and nice to each other, McVeigh took direct aim at "right wing maniacs" and "dangerous demagogues" like Fox News and Glenn Beck, attributing what had happened to their "toxic rhetoric." After her demonstration in front of Brennan's office, McVeigh decided to do an encore outside of Town Hall, right before Bethlehem City Council's January 18 meeting.
"Stand in support of Bethlehem City Council members and against right-wing disruptions of their meetings," stated a circular advertising the event.
Despite the snow and ice, McVeigh was joined by six fellow protesters before Town Hall, including Northampton County Democratic Chair Walt Garvin. He was obviously eager to trade on the deaths of six people, including a 9 year-old girl, to score a few political points.
As I skated my way along the ice to Town Hall, I noticed another person quietly watching McVeigh's Musketeers. It was Lee Schantz, the "right-wing" disruptor from whom City Council so desperately needs protection. In November, he had been ejected from a meeting after getting very loud, though he made no threats to anyone. He was packin', but his weapon was the Constitution.
Schantz quietly watched the demonstrators, but retired scientist Stephen Antalics attempted to engage McVeigh's crew in "civil discourse." Northampton County Democratic Boss Garvin smugly told the octogenarian to "tone it down, big fella'".
Once the meeting started, a very civil McVeigh told Council there's a "direct line" from hate messages on the airwaves to "increasingly vicious barbs" at public officials to violent fantasies by unbalanced public employees to the shots fired in Tucson. She encouraged Council to accept her five-step program for "civil" discourse.
First, any person who has been arrested or removed from a Council meeting for disruptive behavior should be barred. Second, any person who addresses Council members as "idiots, morons, thieves or any other pejorative term" will be gaveled down. Third, no one may challenge the legitimacy of our government. Fourth, stop the use of score cards rating Council members because it can be "cruel." Fifth, stop attacks against younger or female members of Council.
McVeigh might wish to consider a sixth step for her utopia - eliminating the First Amendment.
Asked for comment, here's what Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan had to say: