Dr. J.'s BF Commentary No. 153: It's Not About the Mosque: The GOP and Islamophobia
Published on BuzzFlash/Truthout, Wed, 09/01/2010 - 10:03am.
Steven Jonas , M.D., M.P.H.
As Alan Grayson said (Email message, 8/22/10): "As far as the Republican Party is concerned, they wouldn't mind if Timothy McVeigh wins the Republican primary [in his Florida Congressional district] on Tuesday. (And by the way, if McVeigh ran, he would win.) The National Republican Party doesn't care who wins on Tuesday. They just want to get rid of me. Whoever wins the Republican primary, you can be sure that he fits the racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, hateful, fearful mold that is the National Republican Party of 2010. And that mold gets moldier every day."
Do you think that Mr. Grayson went too far with the Timothy McVeigh comment? In a speech last month, talking to the faithful, Sean Hannity referred to them as "Timothy McVeigh wannabees" and received great applause.
The "Mosque Controversy" is hardly about "The Mosque." First of all, as well-known to anyone who has stopped to examine what it really is, the Muslim center is not one. It is in fact a multi-purpose community center open to all, of all religions, which happens to have a Muslim prayer room in it. No minarets, no muezzins calling the faithful to prayer, just, as an observer in The New Yorker said, a sort of Young Mens' Muslim Association center, sort of modeled on the Young Men's Hebrew Association center at 92nd St. and Lexington Ave., New York, NY, known in the City as "The Y." In fact, staff members of "The Y" consulted with the founders of the Muslim center on their plans. Second of all, it is hardly on "hallowed ground," unless one wants to consider the ground that six sex shops/bars in the same neighborhood pretty close to "ground zero" and a bunch of other run-down and vacant properties, as "hallowed."
So folks, if it ain't about the Mosque that is not a Mosque, what is it about? It is about the GOP's Bush-Presidency-long quest to find the ideal ethnic enemy for pedaling, promoting, and developing what Congressman Grayson describes above. In fact major segments of the GOP have been promoting Islamophobia ever since 9/11, even though Bush himself tried fairly hard to quiet them down on that one. (After all, among the Bush family's closest, very long-time, buddies is the Saudi Royal Family, and they still have tons of the black stuff.)
Charlie Krauthammer has been screaming it from the roof-tops ever since the day after the awful day. Gingrich took up the cause not too long after that. There was that US general who clearly saw that the US is in some sort of holy war against Islam, and of course Ann Coulter chimed in on that one some time ago.
Just the other day, when Ken Mehlman, former RNC chair "came out" (funny, I thought that his homosexuality had been common knowledge for some years now), he said that he is still with the GOP because it is focused on the US's real enemy: the Muslim World. One Debra Burlingame's brother was the pilot of the plane that crashed into the Pentagon (you know, the hollow aluminum tube that made a perfectly symmetrical 16 foot diameter hole in an inner wall of the Pentagon and left no wreckage). She's a leader in the fight to stop the construction of the mosque, in an organization she co-founded with guess who --- Liz Cheney and Bill Kristol. And the list of top GOP-operatives behind this goes and on. And now political candidates, like Rick foot-in-the-mouth Lazio, GOP candidate for Governor in New York, all around the country are jumping on the bandwagon.
What's going on here? Well, the GOP may well have found their perfect racist foil. They are of course fundamentally racist in the traditional anti-black sense, ever since Nixon created the "Southern Strategy" that was cemented in place by Reagan. But you can only get just so far with that one because although you can use pictures and other symbols, what William Rivers Pitt called the "dog-whistle" technique , for the most part in most parts of the country and in most settings you can only talk around the subject, viz. what happened to Laura Schlesinger (who was probably on her way out for one reason or another anyway) when she was honest about her racism. And there is significant African American political power all across the country.
The anti-Latino thing has its limits too. The GOP still wants to try to hold onto some of the Latino vote, especially in Florida and Texas, and there are right-wing Latinos, in those two states and others. And there is significant Latino political power all across the country. Plus, big GOP donors are making millions, if not billions, exploiting undocumented workers and using their presence to hold down wages generally, as well as continue their 60 year-long, very successful, battle to kill trade unionism in the United States.
Watch out America. The Muslims, unlike the Latinos and the African Americans have little or no political power. The Muslims are, well, Muslim. They are "different." They are not Christians or Jews or what is actually the second largest non-religious identity group, the atheists/agnostics/humanists/secularists. They have a different "holy book" (to be burned in bunches by some right-wing "church" in Florida -- those early Nazi book-burnings, anyone?) They are for the most part easy to recognize by their physiognomy. And thus they are they a great target for the Party "That Must Distract From the Real Issues and Its Responsibility for the Mess the Country is In if They Want to Win."
In Weimar Germany it was of course the Jews who were the target of the Right. Political anti-Semitism had a history of modest length, having been invented by an Austrian in the 1880s. But the lies came thick and fast and they did much to propel the Nazis to power. At first, no one contemplated the ultimate outcome (well, maybe a few of the Nazis did). But there was a natural progression from the street violence to the Nuremberg Laws to the economic oppression to the stripping of citizenship and then on to the Final Solution. Yes indeed, the Jews were very convenient targets and certainly "no one (well, maybe a few of the Nazis did) contemplated" the Final Solution (which, after all, was not formalized until, under Hitler's direct order, the Wannsee Conference was held on January 20, 1942 to set up the administrative structure for it).