Death threats of any kind should be taken seriously, whether they are against the president of the United States or the neighbor next door.
Such statements assume a particularly sinister character when accompanied by an obviously racist slur.
That's what happened Tuesday when a Sabattus resident pronounced "Shoot the Ni----" on his Facebook page atop a photo of President Barack Obama.
By mid-afternoon, David Marsters had been interviewed by the Secret Service, which then searched his home and talked to his wife and neighbors.
Within hours, Marsters' statement had been decisively denounced by Sabattus Town Manager Andrew Gilmore.
"I need to clearly state that I am deeply concerned, appalled and, frankly, dumbfounded as to why he or anyone would declare such a thing, let alone print it for the world to see," Gilmore said.
"In three words, this statement incites violence to the level of murder, advocates for the assassination of a United States president and uses what is likely the most deplorable racial slur in American history."
Well said, particularly on the day marking the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech.
Marsters is seeking signatures to qualify for the position of Sabattus selectman on the November ballot and he already holds several committee assignments within local government.
He admitted he made the statement in a Sun Journal interview, said it was a mistake and apologized, but then repeated the original slur several more times before the interview was finished.
This episode clearly shows he is unfit for any public office and deserves the public censure he has received.
of losing health benefits
In a related matter, Marsters, who is a veteran and retired police officer, said he was angry at Obama for an element in the Affordable Care Act he thought would affect his military health benefits.
Since Tricare recipients are already insured, the Affordable Care Act will have no impact on their benefits, according to several military benefits websites.
There is debate about how Tricare, the military's health care program, should be extended to the adult children of current service members, as it has been under the ACA, but Marsters was concerned about his wife's coverage.
Cutting Tricare benefits was proposed as part of a "grand bargain" last year between Obama and House Speaker John Boehner in order to make significant reductions in the nation's budget deficits.
But so were cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, although cuts have always been proposed in terms that exempted current retirees like Marsters.
But his reaction to the idea of losing a government entitlement signals why Congress is afraid to tackle the growing problem of federal budget deficits.
As we have seen with the current sequester cuts, spending on government benefits for the elderly and retired are already crowding out normal government functions.
Most retirees feel as strongly as Marsters that they have earned their Social Security benefits during their working years and deserve promised benefits when they retire.
While Social Security was a great bargain for retirees of earlier generations, the average worker retiring today will receive less than they paid into the Social Security system in retirement.
While most rational people will not threaten to kill public officials for cutting their benefits, politicians who do cut benefits know they will face the wrath of millions of people who have based their retirements on promises made a generation ago.
The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and the editorial board.