A Word About Southeastern Idaho, Where Schoolkids Chant "Assassinate Obama"

Excuse me a moment while I go throw up (no offense to David Edwards and Muriel Kane at Raw Story): Madison County, Idaho was once dubbed "the red

Excuse me a moment while I go throw up (no offense to David Edwards and Muriel Kane at Raw Story):

Madison County, Idaho was once dubbed "the reddest place in America" by Salon, but that didn't make it any less shocking when elementary school children started chanting "assassinate Obama on the school bus.

Matthew Whoolery told KIKD News he found out about the chanting from his second and third graders, who had no idea what the word "assassinate" meant.

"They just hadn't heard anything like this before," Whoolery stated. "I think the thing that struck us was just like, 'Where did they get the word and why would they put that word and that person together?'"

Whoolery, a psychology professor at Brigham Young University in Rexburg, is not an Obama supporter, but he was shocked that any public official would be threatened in that way. "I don't think that the majority of people in Rexburg have extreme ideas like that, but we were just surprised that it would go that far," Whoolery told KIKD.

The Madison County School District has sent out an email saying that students are to be told this sort of behavior is unacceptable.

OK. I grew up in southeastern Idaho -- Idaho Falls, to be exact, about 30 miles south of Rexburg. I've spent a fair amount of time in Madison County; it was where one of my more traumatic experiences as a young adult occurred. So I can talk a little about why this kind of thing might happen there.

This particular corner of the country, as the Raw Story piece notes, is heavily Mormon. Roughly 90 percent of the population there is LDS. And because of that, there is a virulent and entrenched strain of John Bircherite extremism in the body politic. That in turn has helped produce a long-running parade of right-wing extremists (particularly tax protesters and "constitutionalists") who have made Madison County their home.

At the same time, it is by nearly all outward appearances a classic slice of American heartland. My great-aunt and -uncle, both non-Mormons, lived most of their lives there and were not just perfectly comfortable, thoroughly accepted members of the community, but they loved it. There is a decency and integrity to the town and that transcends political considerations.

So having their schoolkids chant "assassinate Obama" must have shocked their sensibilities deeply, which is why school officials and parents made a point of standing up against it.

At the same time, it's not terribly surprising. And not just because there is such a deep streak of ultra-right thinking that runs through this community -- but also because the campaign just finished by Republicans was so rife with rabble-rousing rhetoric that it is, frankly, a wonder this hasn't happened more often, and in more places than just southeastern Idaho.

In fact, it very likely -- indeed, almost certainly -- has. And it's to the credit of Rexburg's conservative Mormons that they drew attention to it. Perhaps they will stop and take a good hard look at the kind of hate they've been spewing before their children.

If only other Republicans in the rest of the heartland would do the same.

About David Neiwert

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