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.
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.
There are times I think the Right can’t sink any lower. Surely it has reached its nadir and will just wallow in its self-imposed muck. There’s nothing it can do which would shock the conscience or incense the soul. Birtherism, rooting for citizens to not get health care, swearing fealty to the NRA after thousands die each year from gun murders. The list goes on, and it makes for sad reading.
However, I’ve learned to put aside my disbelief and prepare myself for the descent into the next circle of hell.
Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s release should have been a moment of unity. The one US soldier held captive by the Taliban was coming home. For that we gave up five Taliban prisoners, who will be locked up in velvet confinement in Qatar, unable to “take the field” against the US and its allies.
But, true to form, the Right—which had called for years for Sgt. Bergdahl’s release—saw not a moment of unity, but an opportunity to mount another frontal assault against Barack Obama.
Bob Bergdahl—Sgt. Bergdahl’s father—looks like a Taliban! And he learned Pashto! Unamerican!
Or: Bergdahl is a deserter, and cost the lives of men sent to look for him. Let him rot!
Or: We’ve never negotiated with terrorists! Obama is a weak appeaser!
Those are just some of the more tepid arguments from the Right. They range up to wanting to execute Sgt. Bergdahl for “desertion”, promising that it will come to pass in a Ted Cruz Administration.
Well, we’ve certainly been treated to a meltdown in what passes for the Right in this country in the age of Obama.
The examples are legion. Obama’s election, a moment seen by many of us as a signal achievement, also brought out, well, the lunatics who saw their country falling away from them. From Joe “You Lie” Wilson to “Second Amendment solutions”, we’ve had almost six years of increasingly unhinged rhetoric, rhetoric which was once confined to the purview of Aryan Nations—or Ron Paul—newsletters.
Imagine, if you will, if Bruce Springsteen had called George W. Bush “a subhuman cowboy”. Even The Boss might not have been popular enough to withstand the torrent of opprobrium.
And yet, here we have belle of the right wing ball, Ted Nugent, calling President Obama a “subhuman mongrel,” with the man whom he was supporting, Republican candidate for governor of Texas Greg Abbott, not casting him aside with the morning’s recycling. Nugent “apologized”, not for the content of his remarks, but because it embarrassed his friend Abbott (who, again, showed no signs of being embarrassed).
When Barack Obama came out in favor of marriage equality, suddenly the cause gained a momentum which has only increased year on year. So, of course, it was only obvious that the Arizona state legislature just passed a law allowing business owners to refuse service to gay customers. (Really, unless a gay man walks in swishing in the most stereotypical manner, how could a good, God-fearing business owner be sure that he wasn’t serving gays unwittingly? Is a sin of ignorance less awful in the eyes of the Lord than a willful transgression?) Because Arizona, faced with the myriad problems all our localities face, decided that this was a problem which needed urgent legislative attention. Why, if gays can eat openly in restaurants across the state, pretty soon they’d be coming out of the closet and playing on NFL and NBA teams! The horror!
Oh, we can laugh, but there’s something serious to consider. And it’s something which should both give us pause and ultimately encourage us.