Promoting violence against girls and women is wrong

Published 10:19 am Tuesday, May 24, 2016

My Point of View by Jennifer Vogt-Erickson

“I’ve got your guncontrol right here (expletive).”

This was Ted Nugent’s message to Hillary Clinton on Facebook a couple weeks ago, and he attached a video depicting Bernie Sanders shooting Clinton with a handgun during a debate.

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Nine years ago, Nugent thrust an automatic weapon into the air at a concert and shouted, “Hey Hillary, you might want to ride one of these into the sunset, you worthless (expletive)!”

Nugent, who doesn’t shrink from verbally threatening people who don’t agree with him, was re-elected to the NRA board of directors this past weekend. From a public relations standpoint, maybe the NRA would prefer he focus on using guns for self defense and hunting rather than for bullying people.

Jennifer Vogt-Erickson

Jennifer Vogt-Erickson

Or maybe the NRA excuses Nugent’s bluster because he’s clearly a lunatic, and many of his ideas aren’t meant to be taken seriously, like when he said he would like to shoot illegal immigrants “invading our country.” Or when he stated that all radical Muslims should be killed.

His wild remarks, though, shouldn’t be dismissed as mere talk. Words have power. One person’s ideas can become another person’s actions, for various reasons, for good or bad. Hateful ideas, especially when combined with violent rhetoric, paint targets on innocent people’s backs.

Last year a North Carolina man murdered three university students in their apartment. They were Muslims of Middle Eastern descent and actively involved in humanitarian aid efforts. In addition to an unhealthy fixation on parking spaces, their gun-toting neighbor disliked the headscarves the two women wore to express their religious devotion.

Two months ago, a Milwaukee man gunned down three of his neighbors in front of their terrified children. He noted that his first victim was speaking Spanish and said, “You guys got to go.” His second and third victims were a young Hmong couple.

Leaders usually disavow any connection between their incendiary words and others’ violent deeds. Donald Trump promised at rallies that he would pay people’s legal fees if they would “knock the crap out of” disruptive protesters. When a supporter at a North Carolina rally in March assaulted another man under those circumstances, Trump withdrew his offer. He insisted, in a complete about-face, “I certainly don’t condone violence.”

Violence against women and sexual exploitation of women isn’t just talk either. Four Minnesota women, including one who was 26 weeks pregnant, have been killed by intimate partners within the past month.

A Freeborn County sting picked up seven people for soliciting prostitution two weeks ago. Last year, a similar law enforcement operation in Nicollet County caught 10 people, including two men who were charged with soliciting sex from a minor.

Last month, eerily reminiscent of Ted Nugent’s “Jailbait” lyrics, Freeborn County charged a man with having sex with a 13-year-old girl. If the charges bothered you, the lyrics should repel you too.

Now consider this: The original cover of Ted Nugent’s 2007 “Love Grenade” album, released when he was 58 years old, features a beautiful young woman who is clad only in black stilettos. Her hands are bound behind her, and she’s bent over atop a platter arranged with vegetables. As if that weren’t graphic enough, she’s clenching a grenade between her teeth. She’s portrayed not as a human being but as a meat product to have sex with, blow up and then consume.

(The cover drew immediate outcry. A picture of a grenade bizarrely adorned with a breast cancer awareness ribbon replaced it.)

The violence is all too real, and promoting physical or sexual violence against girls and women just to be provocative is never okay. If the person doing it is an entertainer, hiring them to take the stage at a family event is a betrayal of community trust.

I have made the Freeborn County fair board aware of Nugent’s troubling antics, but they’re sticking with him. Many people are attracted to Nugent’s anti-PC rebel persona, and money from advance ticket sales has poured in.

But does a person have to objectify and threaten women and decorate with the Confederate flag to be a rebel? Not at all.

Just a few weeks ago, a Minnesota-born priest named Dan Berrigan passed away. He defied the U.S. government and other hierarchies during the Vietnam War. Though he spent his lifetime confronting authorities, he didn’t dehumanize people. He was a rebel who worked unceasingly for peace and justice.

If you would like to peacefully rebel against violence, particularly sexual and physical violence against women and girls, I invite you to join me in boycotting the fair on Friday, Aug. 5. Admission is collected at the gate, not the grandstand, so entrance fees support Nugent whether fairgoers attend his show or not. Please consider spending your money at other local establishments that day instead.

Whether a person does it themselves or brings in somebody else who does it, promoting violence against women or any other group is wrong. Period.


Jennifer Vogt-Erickson is a member of the Freeborn County DFL Party.