Last April, President Obama (then candidate Obama) was raked over the coals by Republicans and Democrats alike for daring to say at a fund-raiser in California:
“And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”
He was speaking of people for whom government seemed to be not working and those who felt disenfranchised for one reason or another. In spite of the political fallout from his statement, most rational Americans realized that what he said was absolutely true, and now his words seem to be coming to life across the country. Whipped to a virtual frenzy by right-wing media, people are beginning to speak in terms that would have been unheard of just a short time ago. They talk about taking the country back, and, for some, the means don’t really seem to matter.
Speaking to a raucous crowd of supporters the other day, a Republican nominee for the Virginia General Assembly, Catherine Crabill said:
“We have the chance to fight this battle at the ballot box before we have to resort to the bullet box, that’s the beauty of our Second Amendment rights … Our Second Amendment rights were to guard against tyranny.”
An outrageous statement, to be sure, but one that has apparently been lost in the noise of many other similar statements, as it didn’t even make the national news. On her website, Ms. Crabill states that: “America was founded by right-wing extremists.” She is also on record as believing that the United States Government was responsible for the Oklahoma City bombing. Dismiss her as a crank and a right-wing nut ball if you like, but she is not only the candidate of a major political party for statewide office, she has a large following of supporters who obviously feel she represents their views.
Even the Virginia Republican Party admits that Ms. Crabill will probably not prevail in the upcoming general election, mainly because of her extremist views, but the question is, how do people like her manage to be nominated in the first place, and what is going on in this country that we accept calls to armed rebellion as normal political discourse?
In the recent murder of a prominent abortion specialist, we witnessed the results of a constant stream of invective directed at practitioners performing a legal procedure in an attempt to halt the procedure, no matter what the cost. The same imprecations repeated over and over: “Abortion is murder! Abortion is murder! Abortion is murder! Tiller is a murderer! Tiller is a murderer! Tiller is a murderer!”
Soon it becomes accepted dogma, and dogma becomes “known fact,” and someday some poor deluded fool takes it upon himself to do “god’s work” and murder the “murderer” to stop the “murders.” Beyond a certain point, it becomes inevitable. Then, after it happens, the organizations spewing the invective step back in horror and say “This isn’t our fault, we abhor the actions of so-an-so, we had no idea anyone would do this,” and my own personal favorite: “So and so isn’t a Christian, ‘cause a REAL Christian would never do anything like that!”
For a year-and-a-half the right-wing media has kept up a constant drumbeat of anti-Obama rhetoric, accusing the President of conspiring with terrorists; being a radical leftist, perhaps even a communist; being mentored by an extremist preacher; creating a socialist state; bankrupting the country, and various and sundry other horrible things.
None of this was sufficient to turn the election or even change the opinions of most of the country, but it was highly effective in reaching those who already had an instinctive dislike for any ideas not approved of by the chief guardians of the conservative mind – the voices they hear, no, not in their heads, the ones on the radio every day.
From Rush and Hannity, Beck and Levin, Boortz and O’Reilly, on down to the local talk-radio guy in the morning, it’s a constant stream of bile pouring out over the airways, washing over the core constituency of the most dangerous political faction in our nations history – and the most ill-informed. They are dangerous because they are conditioned by years of religious training to unquestioned acceptance of whatever is said by those they consider to be in authority – and they have the means to correct what they feel are the wrongs being done by the young Obama administration.
They call themselves patriots, and they are absolutely convinced, with the certitude only possible to the religious, that the current US Government is evolving into what they describe as a fascist state, and to stop the slide into what they see as approaching tyranny, they are prepared to do whatever is necessary. The question is, will they wait until the 2010 elections, or do they seem too far away to do much good. What might happen if they or their “mentors” perceive that the 2010 elections might result in even larger Democratic majorities, which early indications certainly support?
Crabill in Virginia is not an atypical case. If you doubt that, listen to a few hours of talk radio, if indeed you can stand it. You will hear callers saying things like: “It’s time to take our country back, before it’s too late,” and “Boy I hope it doesn’t come to that, but if it does, we’re ready!”
Each week brings yet another outrageous statement by either the media or someone in power, dialing up the rhetoric, and making it ever more difficult for Americans to engage in civil discourse.
When someone says “Abortion is murder,” it is a conversation-stopper, leaving no room for discussion. It’s the same when someone says: “Obama is a terrorist,” or “Obama is a fascist.” There’s nowhere to go, end of discussion.
In this country, with one exception, we have always worked out our problems with civil discourse or the ballot, not the bullet box. Protests are fine, but when the level of discord makes it impossible, if not dangerous for Americans to talk to one another, something is horribly wrong. It’s time, perhaps past time, for those of us who are not swayed by FOX or talk radio to push back and refute some of the lies and half-truths with our friends and family. It’s’ time for all of us to dial-back the noise level and start communicating again instead of going to our respective corners and throwing darts.
It’s time for all of us to start working together to bring the country out of the mess we are in, or we are all going to sink together.