In my brief career as a progressive columnist and blogger, a week has not gone by when I’ve not been verbally assaulted by conservative Americans who more times than not, resort to childish name calling in expressing disagreement with points that I have made. Case and point, I was called a “gay Nazi” today for criticizing right-wing Christians groups who stand in the way of anti-bullying efforts in public school districts.
Since President Obama took office, the level of right-wing vitriol seems to have increased a 1,000 fold. Republicans in general and Tea-Party “patriots” in particular, would have us believe that this President is intentionally working to sabotage America’s future. The rhetorical flourish, “Let’s take back America,” is nothing less than an inference that diabolical forces have taken over this country from the American people. No, this is certainly not, politics as usual in America.
In fact, the anti-human rights bravado, the unceasing vilification of government, the unwillingness of conservative Republicans to cooperate and compromise to advance the common interests of the American people is frightening. I’ve now lived through the administrations of 11 different Presidents and except for the Republican efforts to turn Bill Clinton’s sexual indiscretions into impeachable offenses, I can’t remember a time when there has been such profound enmity from conservative white Americans towards any President or fellow citizens who subscribe to more progressive values.
Watching Fox Noise and listening to the speeches of Republicans legislators, one would think that American history began with the inauguration of Barack Obama and there was no President George W. Bush who, increased the deficit by 72% and took America into two wars while lowering taxes. The “lie” that less taxes and less regulation of the private sector are the keys to a healthy economy have been disproven so often in history, it’s amazing anyone can still spout such poop with a straight face.
In few moments of frustration in recent months, I have been inclined to wonder whether our beloved President, Abraham Lincoln, was right about slavery and wrong about succession. From the perspective of most political leaders and citizens living in the northern states in 1861, the collective interests of the country and morality always trumped greed and self-interest. The Confederacy, the by-product of a culture that believed that individual rights and the right to prosper –regardless of at whose expense, were will to die for the right to own slaves and be free of the moral judgment of others.
The guns may have fallen silent in 1865, but has America really ever ended the conflict over those differing values?
- What kind of America would exist today if it did not include a significant number of people who reject the idea of a central government that addresses the needs of all of its citizens?
- What kind of America would we have today if a clear majority of American’s understood that health-care isn’t a product to be purchased, but a right that each individual is entitled too?
- What kind of America would we have today if a majority of Americans believed that allowing any of our fellow citizens to go hungry or homeless is unacceptable, as opposed to those who coincidently, reject biological evolution -but most definitely do subscribe to social and economic evolution where only the “fittest” should survive?
To answer those questions, one need look no further than Canada, our quiet neighbor to the north which treats every citizen with respect and equality. And no, I’m not moving there because they have it right, I’m staying here to help MY country get it right.
The current polarities in American politics are dangerous and frightening:
- Some of us still continue to believe that intelligent-reasoning are required for civilized people to resolve their differences. Yet, millions of Americans subscribe to the primitive notion that “right” is defined by might. So don’t you dare think about taking away my gun. In fact, the demand to carry lethal weapons at all times and in all places is now the raison d’etre of more than a handful of “confederates.”
- Many honest, mature Americans, Democrat and Republicans alike, look at the current President and see a highly educated, principled person with noble intentions. But a frightening number of Americans see Barack Obama as a closet Muslim of questionable pedigree who can’t possibly be a “real American.” He cannot say or do anything right, even when he offers compromise or advances the position of his political opponents. Why is that? We all know why, even if it makes us uncomfortable to acknowledge that fact. Jackie Robinson would understand Barack Obama’s challenges better than most of us can.
- Many of us believe that government is about democracy and compromise, while too many confederate politicians have become uncompromising fanatics who don’t hesitate to employ demonizing demagoguery to describe those with whom they have political differences. That’s not good for civil discourse and not good for securing and nurturing democratic values and principles. Just how far to the right are those people willing to take this country?
And if you think that I’m an alarmist who is over dramatizing the precipice I fear America is coming ever closer to, consider the recent remarks of conservative commentator Andrew Breitbart. While careful to also throw in the PC disclaimer, “just kidding,” its doubtful that anyone in the room who heard him speak about a possible military confrontation between the political right and left in this country, thought he was joking.
“I must say, in my non-strategic… ‘cuz I’m under attack all the time, if you see it on Twitter. The (unclear) call me gay, it’s just, they’re vicious, there are death threats, and everything. And so, there are times where I’m not thinking as clearly as I should, and in those unclear moments, I always think to myself, ‘Fire the first shot.’
Bring it on. Because I know who’s on our side. They can only win a rhetorical and propaganda war. They cannot win. We outnumber them in this country, and we have the guns. (laughter) I’m not kidding. They talk a mean game, but they will not cross that line because they know what they’re dealing with.
And I have people who come up to me in the military, major named people in the military, who grab me and they go, ‘Thank you for what you’re doing, we’ve got your back.’
They understand that. These are the unspoken things we know, they know. They know who’s on their side, they’ve got Janeane Garofalo, we are freaked out by that. When push comes to shove, they know who’s on our side. They are the bullies on the playground, and they’re starting to realize, what if we were to fight back, what if we were to slap back?
Lincoln was right about slavery, but wrong about succession. The guns may be quiet, but the animosity and resentment is as real now as it was in 1861. Can those with the guns be trusted to not take our political differences to the next level of confrontation? Time will tell.
9/20 ADDENDUM TO THIS COLUMN: Coming from the other side of the political spectrum, renown left-wing iconoclast Michael Moore, told a mostly college age audience in Boston last night that it will take a “rumble” to fix America. How sad that ideologues from both ends of the political spectrum believe that extreme confrontation is inevitable.