News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Opinion

June 12, 2010

STEPHANIE SALTER: Just another angry, common man threatening a member of Congress

TERRE HAUTE — If you want a look inside a disturbing phenomenon, read the letter the FBI says a Michigan senior citizen has admitted sending to U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak.

The violent portions of the letter are written by a person who’s obviously gone off the rails. But the “voice” in which he howls throughout the two-page typed missive is a common one among a growing segment of Americans. The voice is all over cyber space, talk radio and reader forums. It belongs to people who are so angry, who perceive themselves and “the common man” so wholly as victims, they are blind to most realities — including the deep contradictions within their fiery, hate-filled rhetoric.

According to a federal court criminal complaint, Russell Hesch, 73, “told investigators that his biggest mistakes were writing the letter, sending it in an e-mail to his son, David, and asking David to mail the letter.”

Hesch did not reach back nearly far enough in his error assessment.

The West Branch, Mich., man was charged earlier this month with “conspiring to threaten to assault, kidnap or murder” Stupak in retaliation against Stupak’s official duties. The alleged threat came in the form of an anonymous letter the government says Hesch e-mailed to his son in Colorado and asked him to print out and mail so neither Hesch could be traced. The son, David Hesch, 50, faces the same charges.

Hesch Sr.’s attorney denies the charges against his client, but in a criminal complaint made available by the Detroit Free Press, FBI Agent Travis Lloyd said Hesch signed a written admission that he was the author of the creepy, vigilante letter addressed to “Stupak family” and signed, “The Devil within Us.” Some highlights:

• “I will paint the Mackinaw [sic] Bridge with the blood of you and your family members … I will save your blood for the high towers toward the end of this project.”

• “Actions and decisions carry consequences. Are you and your family prepared for those consequences? Is your wife, Laurie Ann, prepared for those consequences? Is your son Ken and his family prepared for those consequences?”

• “I have the knowledge, the means, the resources, and the commitment, that you have propagated, to fully execute this plan … Millions of Americans have died in their pursuit for our freedom. This is a noble and honorable thing. If this road brings me to that end, I will be in good company and my family will know that my life was not taken in vain.”

The letter also encouraged Stupak to follow “in the footsteps of your son Bart Jr.” who committed suicide. The writer added, “This option saves your family.”

FBI agents said they suspected the letter was Hesch’s because they had plenty of previous samples of his writing — 55 e-mails sent to Stupak over the past seven years. The Congressman’s staff and Stupak knew Hesch as an outspoken critic who once told the staunchly anti-abortion Stupak he could not possibly be “pro-life” and also a Democrat.

In letters and messages he did sign, Hesch said he is a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel. Free Press reporters spoke to a member of his VFW post in West Branch, to his neighbors and to a spokeswoman for Michigan Right to Life, in which Hesch has been active. Everyone was surprised that the “very opinionated,” “hard-core right,” but “nice gentleman” and “pretty decent guy” was charged with making the threats.

Such are the contradictions of the perpetually outraged victim.

Hesch’s alleged letter is pocked with spelling, grammar and syntax errors — “You, sir, have sold your sole to the devil.” — but the writer insists, “I am well educated and well traveled.”

He makes numerous references to people who fought and died for America’s freedom and he places himself — with his illegal, murderous plans for a U.S. Congressman — among the honored heroes.

Two paragraphs before the blood-on-the-bridge threats, the writer says he tithes to his church and contributes to charities. He declares: “I have taught my children to be honest, compassionate, hard working and responsible. I have instilled a strong Christian faith within them and tried to have them search for the common decency of all people.”

When do you suppose he gave up on that search? About the time he started believing that Christ would approve of a grisly, family death scenario for the Stupaks or the sadistic advice to Stupak to kill himself as his son had done?

By the way, the “reason” Hesch allegedly envisioned Stupak blood all over the Mackinac Bridge: According to the letter, it was not because of an executive order regarding abortion that Stupak accepted from President Obama in return for his House vote on health care reform. Abortion is never mentioned. It was the health care bill, itself. The letter says Stupak “sold out the future of this country” with his vote for the bill:

“Did you follow the math, when the projections were based on 10 years collecting taxes and only 6 years paying for the programs? … You have sold out the future of our children’s children. You have trampled on the lives of everyone who has fought and died for this country and those basic freedoms which make us America. You have defecated on the very words of our constitution.”

When the letter allegedly written by Hesch turns to Obama, the words are boilerplate “conservative” rant. All that’s missing is a pause for a commercial break.

“My disdain for the president is solely based on his beliefs of what our country should look like,” the letter says, “his arrogance of knowing better than the common man, his hidden black agenda, his redistribution of wealth, his out of control spending, his dumbing down of America, his view of the Constitution as a living document, his liberal socialist views for America, his general dislike of America and his apologetic stance for what we represent.”

Both Hesches are out of jail awaiting court dates in Michigan. The senior Hesch is wearing an electronic ankle monitor and confined to a three-county area. A federal judge ordered him to turn over any guns he had, to observe a curfew, to undergo evaluations for substance abuse and mental health and to have no access to the Internet.

That last condition might be a nightmare for a member of the perpetually angry and victimized patriots of America, were it not for one fact: A single, silenced voice won’t be missed in the outraged chorus that grows louder by the day.

Stephanie Salter can be reached at (812) 231-4229 or stephanie.salter@tribstar.com.

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