Sticks and Stones: Americans Behaving Badly
Americans have just witnessed an important moment in our history with the passage of President Obama’s health care reform bill. It seems that there is a smidgen of awareness of the American Commons and the people’s welfare starting to stir and manifest in the national psyche, thank the gods.
Naturally, the GOP is licking its wounds and pointing fingers at each other, as well as at Tea Party people, aka Teabaggers, for the failure to stop this egregious “socialist” scheme. Recently, Republican officials were feverishly trying to distance themselves from the Tea Party, after some very nasty behaviors by Tea Partiers toward Members of Congress in the days leading up to the health care bill’s passage. Rep. Cleaver from Missouri (D) was spat on, Rep. John Lewis from Georgia (D) was called the “n” word by Tea Party protesters, and out gay Rep. Barney Frank (D) from Massachusetts was called a faggot. What was the right’s response?
- Tea Partier Amy Kremer stated “…that’s not what we’re about.”
- GOP chair Michael Steele told the Meet the Press gang on 21 March 2010: “It is–it’s certainly not a reflection of the movement or the Republican Party when you have some idiots out there saying very stupid things.”
- GOP Minority Leader John Boehner called the Tea Partiers’ behavior “reprehensible”.
Clearly, all three of these people are in need of a serious reality check, which I am delighted to provide. Ms. Kremer: bullying and name-calling is what the Tea Party is about, as it has been reported at other protests. Mr. Steele: the Tea Partiers are the well-nourished offspring of the stingy and short-sighted Republican worldview and the GOP is indeed reflected in their words and deeds. As for Mr. Boehner, this is a man who had the audacity to wave a copy of the American Constitution while speaking to a Tea Party rally, all the while denouncing a government takeover of health care. Boehner, by the way, is a rabid supporter of the Tea Party birther-guns-no taxes at all-we ain’t socialists dammit crowd: you know, the all white fraternity of those who think they are more privileged than others. They are ready and quite willing to accept Social Security, Medicare, disability benefits, unemployment benefits, but not universal health care, ’cause, you know, it’s so socialist: go figure.
So, what in the hell does this have to do with gay rights, you might ask? The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), in their annual report on hate groups, “Rage on the Right: The Year in Hate and Extremism”, is reporting a dramatic surge in hate groups and hate actions in 2009: a 244% increase in anti-government “Patriot” groups alone, and that’s not including racist groups, anti-immigrant groups, and other groups. The language used at many anti-Obama rallies is outright racist or thinly veiled for deniability. Protest signs at Tea Party and other rightist gatherings endorse or tacitly approve bloodshed in the pursuit of a white-washed America. Where there is such blatant racism and hatred, there is also always homophobia, for fear of the Other (xenophobia) is the part of the same mentality that dominates rightists now proudly carrying guns into Starbucks. you know, just in case they need to use it in a coffeehouse. When there is this much churned up anger against the government, especially in the middle of such a huge work-life-economy paradigm shift, people are easily manipulated through their fear and need to feel safer and more secure. Sadly, some people feel a need to exploit the human condition at these times.
Riddle me this, dear reader: with what other periods in history does our current situation parallel? Pre-Nazi Germany springs to mind and so does the time leading up to the 1995 bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building, when the government was targeted by the American Right as Enemy Numero Uno of the people. Now, Rasmussen Reports says 71% of those polled don’t like how Congress is doing. SPLC is reporting that these numbers are nearly the same as those preceeding the 1995 bombing. I don’t know about you, but this makes me quite uneasy.
The people who used inexcusable language in an attempt to demean some of our African-American and gay Members of Congress should be ashamed of their behavior. It shows just how low the right has sunk in its pursuit of ideology over humanity. Bullying, demonizing, and inciting to violence are characteristics of those in need of some serious time out. Intimidation through bullying and derisive, hateful name-calling seeks to polarize, divide, agitate, and negatively manipulate others. Let us remember that when the Nazis came for the Jews, they also came for gays, religious minorities, the Romany, and numerous other socially peripheralized groups.
This time, may Americans be the people who gather around the largest feasting table in history, and feed each other good, nourishing, and necessary things. Let us unequivocally denounce real evils in the USA, like homelessness, sickness, poverty, violence, and stop behaving like assholes, for we have tremendous work yet to do. Yeah, Representative Barney Frank is gay: get over it, for your name calling will not lessen his impact or his presence one whit. Grow up, already.
P.S.: After this article was posted: a wave of window-breaking at Democratic offices in three states has occurred, apparently instigated by a blogger and former militia leader called for America’s own Kristallnacht; Sarah Palin declared: “Don’t retreat. RELOAD”; Associated Press is reporting Democrats are expressing concerns regarding their safety; anti-choice Representative Bart Stupak (D-MI) has received numerous and disturbing threats for voting for the health care bill: listen to some of the vile comments from callers; a brother of Rep. Thomas Perriello (D – VA) had his propane gas line cut and the FBI is investigating; and yet more violence is being reported here. For those readers who thought my comparison to Nazi actions of violence, these acts of violence confirm that American extremists are closely mirroring patterns of violence and intimidation that the Nazis used.