Suddenly, the tea parties are old news. The freak-out de jour is healthcare, and people are so profoundly ignorant about the issue that one woman begged the President not to let the government take over Medicare. ‘Scuse me mam, but just who do you think administers Medicare, the tooth fairy?
This is, of course, not the organically-grown ‘grassroots’ movement the conservative commentators are crowing as a fine example of democracy. It’s funded by special interests, and carried to the people on multitudes of conservative talkshows. And these fine examples of democracy are in fact screaming, shouting people down, and threatening God’s retribution. They resemble a feral mob of brown shirts from Hitler’s Germany, not concerned citizens looking for dialogue and compromise. The Right isn’t interested in dialogue; they’re interested in winning at all costs, even if the cost is the end of the grand democratic experiment that is America.
I think we’re approaching the greatest threat to our democracy since at least the Great Depression. Day by day, my hopes for a post-racial America, and an America that really stands for liberty and justice are crumbling under an onslaught of disgusting, thinly-veiled racist vitriol and lynch mob mentality.
We’ve had people with assault rifles coming to our president’s speeches. One man, with a pistol strapped to his leg carried a sign saying ‘It’s time to water the tree of liberty’. When questioned by the media, he played dumb – oh no, I’m not advocating violence. There was no reference to blood on my sign. Of course, his sign implicitly references bloodshed, since the famous Jefferson quote it paraphrases is: “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” This quote, a former favorite of mine, was sullied forever by Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. His favorite tee shirt was emblazoned with it. Apparently Mr. McVeigh convinced himself that the women and children he blew up were either patriots or tyrants, rather than victims of a sick, twisted little man.
A nascent threat to the president is evident at every speaking engagement, along with a veritable flood of racial caricature. We’ve had a seemingly endless parade of Republican party figures outed for emailing or mailing unbelievably racist caricatures of our president, from Obama in a witch doctor’s outfit, to the white house garden filled with watermelon. A Boston cop email blasted out a letter comparing professor Louis Gates to a “banana-eating jungle monkey’. His lawyer said the comments were “taken out of context” – how in God’s name can you take something like that out of context?
We’ve had two Fox News personalities inadvertently voicing their innermost thoughts this way: Brian Kilmeade said “we [Americans] keep marrying other species and other ethnicities . . . Swedes have pure genes . . . in America we marry everybody..." Glenn Beck said: “Obama is a racist who has a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture.” I’m not sure what white culture is. Is it personified by the transcontinental railroad, built largely with the toil and blood of Chinese immigrants? Or theAmerican cowboy, who was very often black? Or perhaps our constitution, large parts of which were lifted from the Iroquois? The fantasy that white people alone made this great country persists in the minds of these troglodytes, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.
Many whites still look back to the 1950’s as a golden time. Funny, I see it as a time of shame, when large parts of America practiced apartheid and lynching, and people were blacklisted for their beliefs. It was a time of paranoia, censorship, and lockstep conformity – none of which are the hallmarks of a great democracy.
So how do we defend our democracy? Surely joining the shouting match isn’t the way. I don’t want to be a bully, but I don’t want to sit idly by while my country is highjacked by a bunch of crazy, ignorant racists either.
Well, money talks, and Glenn Beck’s show has lost a slew of advertisers who felt he went too far – but not until they received tons of mail from outraged Americans. Perhaps a boycott of every Fox advertiser is a start. If you’ve got a better idea, I’m all ears.