I was going to write this essay earlier this month, probably after a GOP debate. But, life intervened, and I set it aside.
I certainly wasn’t expecting the Paris attacks. But I should have expected the reaction among most everyone on the Right.
While Parisians are crowding outdoor cafes and continuing with their lives as a raised fist against the fear which Daesh wants them to live under, conservatives in this country are running around flinging fearful fecal matter in every direction, warning that Daesh is under your bed, or that the orphaned refugee could be a sleeper agent ready to detonate a bomb at your nearest NFL stadium.
However, I’m not going to say that this is against American tradition. The fact is that the United States has always had a very vibrant Party of Fear.
Unless you’ve been under a rock for the past few weeks—and if you have, you may want to skip this and stay there where it’s safe—you may have noticed the media has a shiny new toy.
The Ebola outbreak which has reached our shores—infecting less than ten people—has our failed media experiment in a veritable apoplexy. CNN, looking for something to replace it’s 24/7 coverage of MH370 and recapture those golden days of summer, has joined MSNBC and Fox in providing a constant stream of information on the breakout. And by “constant stream of information”, I mean dialing the panic button up to 12 and reporting as if half of the country has been infected with the virus. Rather than a contained outbreak, this Ebola infestation is a new Black Death, scything through the population with grim glee.
Now, I know that it’s hard filling in the time between commercials. A news producer’s job is never easy. But there seems to be something disreputable about media organizations latching on to a very minor outbreak and building it up to be an existential threat to humanity. And, of course, the coverage was nowhere near as manic when the Ebola pandemic was restricted to west African nations. Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea are facing real catastrophic consequences to their economies and social fabric; but, they’re far away, and in Africa, so not worthy of foaming at the mouth coverage.
From CNET: A bulletproof blanket seeks to shield kids during school shootings
Civilizations die from suicide, not by murder.
– Arnold Toynbee
Let’s review a few news items from the past few days/months:
— A scofflaw rancher attracts a motley assortment of militia defenders threatening to shoot federal agents.
— A “sovereign citizen” in Georgia dies in a shootout with deputies while trying to take over a courthouse.
— Right wing extremists walk up to two Las Vegas police officers and shoot them, declaring the beginning of a revolution.
— A POW is released, and a sizable portion of the nation, instead of celebrating, rains down opprobrium upon the POW, his family, and President Obama.
And those are just off the top of my head. I could also include Senator Rand Paul tweeting that next time Pres. Obama does a prisoner swap, he should send five Democrats instead.
Things which were once beyond the pale have become commonplace, even excused. This isn’t something endemic solely to the Age of Obama. Oklahoma City happened on the watch of the previous Democratic president, who shares the trait of being demonized with Pres. Obama.
The pass in which we find ourselves has been long in gestation. It’s just been brought to gruesome birth upon the election and re-election of the nation’s first black President.
For close on two decades, the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, and their cohorts on right wing hate radio and Fox News hate television have been providing a steady diet of outrage and conspiracy. But outrage and conspiracy are like heroin: each successive hit has to be more potent, has to up the high, as their acolytes seek to keep the outrage up, seek meaning for all the travails besetting them. Thus you get people like Alex Jones, who is more than willing to feed the addicts with ever more insane junk, upping the potency, wasting what’s left of their minds.
One of the most popular shows on television is CBS’ “Two and a Half Men”. And I’ve often wondered at its popularity.
It is a very well-written and acted show, as far as it goes. But if you watch it for any length of time, you come away with a wretched taste in your mouth. It is, without a doubt, a show with characters who have no redeeming qualities. Everyone is gleefully mean to everyone else, reveling in cutting barbs and casual humiliation. Obviously, it’s a comedy painted in broad strokes, as sitcoms normally are. However, if you watch it on your local station in reruns before the prime time schedule comes on, you’ll be forgiven for wondering why anyone should give a damn about what happens to any of the show’s characters.
And yet, for more than a decade it has been one of the most popular shows on television. Before Charlie Sheen melted down, he was the highest paid actor on TV thanks to it. Millions of people tune in to watch a weekly display of dysfunction so severe that suspension of disbelief becomes increasingly difficult.
What’s clear is that the shifting views on health care predate the Affordable Care Act. The number of Americans who think health care is the government’s responsibility hovered around two-thirds for the first half of the 2000s, peaking at 69 percent in 2006. Then those numbers started falling, hitting 50 percent in 2010 and 42 percent this year.
The shrinkage of American generosity during that period wasn’t just about health care. The onset of the recession corresponded with a change in public opinion on a range of issues, and in most cases the effect was to make Americans less caring about others.
Starting in 2007, the portion of Americans who said the government should guarantee every person enough to eat and a place to sleep started falling, from 69 percent to 59 percent last year. People who said the government should help the needy, even if it means going deeper into debt, fell from 54 percent to 43 percent over the same period.
I don’t remember how old I was; maybe 10 or 11. And I don’t remember what occasioned the discussion; possibly because my social circle was a rainbow coalition of different races, ethnicities, genders. But I remember what my mother told me one day: Yes, you have to fear all black people, because when we had just moved to this country, your father was mugged by a black man. And maybe I’m just imagining my response to her, all these years later, but to my recollection I didn’t let her say that without push-back. I questioned why I should fear an entire group because of the actions of one person. Although now I’m of the opinion that I am my brother’s keeper, I’m also of the opinion that at some point my brother must answer for his own actions. I don’t own them, only what I do and say. Likewise, the African Americans who come into my library shouldn’t have to answer for the bad decisions of another African American. At some point, we all have to stand alone before the world and justify our actions. The hundred are not responsible for the criminality of the one.
My mother has mellowed as she’s grown older. I’d like to think that my brothers and me have helped her see the ludicrousness of her fears. It also helped that her mother, my grandmother, shuffled off her mortal coil two decades ago; her skin was translucent, her eyes blue, and she made it clear that she was superior to anyone whose skin was even a shade darker than hers. She was the motive force of the racism in my family. But something happened at my library which brought that childhood incident back fresh into my mind.
In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on the Voting Rights Act, Republican policymakers acted with remarkable speed – literally, less than 24 hours – to approve new voting restrictions, most notably a controversial voter-ID law.
When the Voting Rights Act was intact, changes to voting laws in the Lone Star State would need to be cleared with the Justice Department in advance of being implemented, but with the law gutted by a narrow Supreme Court majority, GOP officials in Texas assumed the Justice Department is no longer relevant, and they could do as they pleased.
The nation’s Attorney General apparently believes otherwise….
And see TPM: Holder’s Move Against Texas Could Send The Voting Rights Act Back To The Supreme Court
Steve Benen: Among voter-suppression bills, ‘This is the single worst’
Over the last few years, we’ve seen quite a few states take up new voting restrictions, immediately on the heels of Republican gains in the 2010 election cycle, so much so that the notion of a “Republican war on voting” was widely recognized and understood. After the 2012 elections, despite the failures of voter suppression, state GOP officials renewed their efforts.
But it’s probably fair to say we haven’t seen anything quite as astounding as the proposed restrictions in North Carolina. Barbara Arnwine, president of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said, “This is the single worst bill we have seen introduced since voter suppression bills began sweeping the country.”
ThinkProgress: Ohio Plans Unspeakably Cruel Appeal Of Dying Man’s Last Wish
President Obama tours Jacksonville port with, from left, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx; Dennis Kelly, TracPac Regional Vice President and General Manager; Ray Schleicher, CEO of the Jacksonville Port Authority, and Fred Wakefield, International Longshoreman’s Association Representative
Text of the President’s remarks in Jacksonville today here
Norm Ornstein: The Unprecedented, Contemptible GOP Quest to Sabotage Obamacare. What the Republicans are doing now goes beyond mere hardball politics – and could hurt millions of Americans affected by health-care reform.
Andrew Sullivan: …I saw nothing that new in the president’s speech on Israel-Palestine – just a minimal request directed to both sides based on a settlement everyone knows is the only equitable one, and that has been the cornerstone of US policy for a very long time. But the rank hysteria that immediately sprang from Jerusalem and quickly enveloped the far-right-wing-media-industrial-complex, revealed far more plainly than before that the gulf between Israel and the rest of the world is simply vast.
It appears that the maximum Netanyahu would allow in any two state solution are some kind of autonomous bantustans in the West Bank, surrounded by Israeli military and security forces and buffered at the Jordan border with IDF troops … If this is Israel’s bottom line, there will be no peace, and there should be no peace, because of the rank injustice of this non-solution.
….Netanyahu is no longer on the Israeli fringe … there is very solid and wide support in Israel for such a maximalist position, and in America, this is what most of the American Jewish Establishment has fatefully backed.
What strikes me is the visceral and emotional power behind the AIPAC line, displayed in Netanyahu’s contemptuous, disgraceful, desperate public dressing down of the American president in the White House.
Just observe the tone of Netanyahu’s voice, and the Cheney-like determination to impose his will on the world, regardless of anyone else, and certainly without the slightest concern for his ally’s wider foreign policy and security needs … Has Netanyahu ever asked, one wonders, what he could actually do to help Obama, president of Israel’s oldest, and strongest ally in an era of enormous social and political change?
…Netanyahu’s current position means that the US is supposed to sacrifice its broader goals of reconciliation with an emergent democratic Arab world ..he wants the US to clasp itself to Israel’s total distrust of every Arab state and population in an era where it is vital for the US to do exactly the opposite.
And it is absurd not to notice Obama’s even-handedness. It’s clear he won’t legitimize Hamas until Hamas legitimizes itself by acknowledging Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state and dropping its virulent, violent anti-Semitism … Like any US president, he is committed to Israel’s security and is, indeed, vital to it. But all he asks is a good faith attempt by the Israelis to acknowledge that their future state has to be based on the 1967 lines with landswaps. Indefensible? Says who?….
And no one seems to appreciate Obama’s political courage in all this. Obama seems to understand that an equitable two-state solution is a key crucible for the change he is seeking with respect to the Muslim world … With each month in office, he has pursued this, through humiliation after humiliation from the Israelis, who are openly trying to lobby the press, media, political parties and Congress to isolate this president and destroy his vision for peace and the historic and generational potential his presidency still promises. To achieve this, he has to face down the apocalyptic Christianist right, the entire FNC-RNC media machine, a sizable chunk of his party’s financial base, and the US Congress. And yet on he pushes – civilly, rationally, patiently.
This really is a titanic struggle between fear and hope…..
Huffington Post: October 21 – The office of Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) has been locked down due to the presence of a suspicious package covered with swastikas …. an “envelope containing white powder” was mailed to Grijalva’s Tuscon office
Grijalva has served in the House since 2003. He was reelected in 2008 with 63% of the vote.
* Raul Grijalva’s father was a migrant worker from Mexico who entered the United States in 1945 through the Bracero Program and labored on southern Arizona ranches
* Grijalva was born in Tucson, Arizona, and graduated from Sunnyside Magnet High School in 1967. He is a 2004 inductee to the Sunnyside High School Alumni Hall of Fame. He attended the University of Arizona and earned a bachelor’s degree in Sociology
* Grijalva co-chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus and is widely considered one of the most liberal members of Congress — in 2008, he was among 12 members rated by National Journal as tied for most liberal overall
* For the first session of the 111th Congress, Grijalva received a 100 percent score from Americans for Democratic Action, Peace Action, the League of Conservation Voters, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and several other notable groups
* Grijalva has been an outspoken advocate of mining law reform and other environmental causes during his time on the House Committee on Natural Resources, where he chairs the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands
* He has been a vocal opponent of the recently enacted Arizona law that mandates police checks of citizenship documentation
* Shortly after the measure was signed by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, Grijalva called on legal, political, activist and business groups not to hold their conventions or conferences in the state, a position he says has been misconstrued as a call for a general boycott of the state economy
* Grijalva has a pro-choice voting record. He was strongly critical of the Stupak-Pitts Amendment, which sought to place limits on taxpayer-funded abortions in the Affordable Health Care for America Act
* Grijalva has sponsored numerous education bills during his time in Congress, most recently the Success in the Middle Act and the Graduation for All Act
* On Feb. 24, 2010, Grijalva wrote a letter signed by 18 other Representatives calling for an investigation of the BP Atlantis offshore drilling platform due to whistleblower allegations that it was operating without approved safety documents. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill began on April 20
* As a member and chairman of the Pima County Board of Supervisors, Grijalva was widely regarded as a central figure behind the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan, an ambitious and highly regarded County program for planned land-use and biodiversity conservation
* He consistently supported endangered species and wilderness conservation on the Board of Supervisors and has continued to do so in Congress, introducing a bill in 2009 to make permanent the National Landscape Conservation System within the Bureau of Land Management
* In 2008, Grijalva released a report called The Bush Administration’s Assaults on Our National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, which accused the Bush administration of mismanaging public land and reducing barriers to commercial access
* Grijalva supports increasing restrictions on the purchase and possession of guns and increasing enforcement of existing restrictions on gun purchase and possession
* As co-chair of the Progressive Caucus, Grijalva was a prominent supporter of a public option throughout the debate over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act
* Grijalva has a long history in community health activism as an early supporter of Tucson’s El Rio Community Health Center. He supports single-payer health care, but voted in favor of the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act because he felt it was a major improvement over the status quo
* Grijalva supports the DREAM Act and the Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America’s Security and Prosperity Act (CIR ASAP) and has recently come to greater prominence because of his role in promoting immigration reform
* Grijalva is a strong supporter of sovereignty and government-to-government relationships. In April 2010 he introduced the RESPECT Act, which mandates that federal agencies consult with Native tribes before taking a variety of major actions