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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 9/14/09

Stop the Lynch Mob: We Need the Real Deal

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Message Hilton Obenzinger
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Birthers, deathers, tenthers, gunners, lifers, Foxers, secessionists, and all the rest of these extremists believe their America has gotten stolen out from under them. Stolen right before their very eyes by the crazy fact of an election!

Let's not give it back.

But they're getting frantic, and dangerous, egged on by demagogues like Glenn Beck. Their antics during the town halls and after have increasingly taken on the smell of a lynch mob. A white congressman from South Carolina, a prote'ge' of Strom Thurman and a member of a pro-Confederacy organization, insults the president during his health care joint session of Congress; then the Republicans rebut Obama's speech from, of all places, the Strom Thurmond Room in the Capital.

No one needs a degree in semiotics to read these signs.

A black man is in the White House, someone who actually has brains, knows how to speak, and believes he can make government serve the people. It's too much for these people to bear - Strom Thurmond and all the old segregationists are rolling in their graves.

A lot of people are seeing this and describing it the same way, not just paranoid leftists like me. Here's Joe Klein, writing in his blog for the eminently mainstream Time: "Could I just say that the intensity of this is getting pretty scary... and dangerous? We are heading toward a cliff and the usual brakes of civil discourse are not working. Indeed, the Republicans have the pedal to the metal... I have a sinking feeling about where we're headed now. I hope I'm wrong."

So how do you head off a lynch mob? Mark Twain said all it took was one brave man to turn a crazed mob around, just one to stand up to tell the frothing crowd that they're all fools and they should just go home. That's all it would take. One person who stares down the blood-lust, who says enough is enough, and as a result the crowd snaps out of its trance.

I hate to tell you this, but that one person is you - and me.

We're just going to have stand in front of a crowd of rabid birthers and tell them to go home. All of us need to stand up. Everyone who supported Obama, all of the progressive activists and organizations, civil rights, women's, environmentalist groups, churches - everyone. And that includes those few Republicans who reject the extreme right - even those conservatives who criticize Obama but do not succumb to the fringe hysteria.

This is the time to call for decency and basic democratic rights - from everyone. Now before it's too late, before the violence grows even more, before . . . well, you get the idea.
But where is it? Opposition to the growing fascist trend can't be left only to wisecracks by Jon Stewart and Bill Maher or to rallies organized by the White House. What's going on?

The problem is that a lot of progressives have their own criticisms of Obama. He called for a freeze of Israeli settlements - unprecedented - but many believe it's not enough. He's starting negotiations with Iran but he's expanding the war in Afghanistan. He pumps stimulus into the economy but he seems to coddle Wall Street. He supports gay rights but wavers on gays in the military. He calls for health care reform but steers away from the single-payer system and seems even to be willing to abandon the "public option." Obama concedes too much, he accommodates the right too much, he's too moderate, he's too nice, he doesn't fight enough.

Stop! Obama's not a radical, not a revolutionary, and certainly not a socialist. But the fact is that the ultra-right and the sector of the ruling class represented by Cheney-Palin think he is. He's shifting the direction of America in small but important ways, and once you start to think about change all sorts of things could happen. And these rightwing extremists know it, even if the left doesn't.

It's laughable. Except they got guns.

So progressives, liberals and all decent people have to do something they're not used doing and haven't been really good at. We need to learn the art of how to support and pressure at the same time. That sounds like walking backwards and forwards without falling down. But no matter our position on issues, no matter our criticisms, we need to defend the president and his administration. For a lot of folks, this is uncharted territory. How to voice critical support? But we risk losing all of our democratic rights, and the possibilities of more change, if we don't learn.

I don't have much connection with coalitions and organizations, but if you do, start talking on all levels, local to national, talk to friends, talk to everyone. We need to activate, participate, and demonstrate.

In the tradition of a true crank, I'll even volunteer a name for the mobilization: The Real Deal. FDR had his New Deal, Truman tried his Fair Deal - now we need a Real Deal, one that deals with reality and the new America of many peoples, races, religions, ideas.

Are you ready to stare down a lynch mob?

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Hilton Obenzinger is the author of "American Palestine: Melville, Twain and the Holy Land Mania" (Princeton), among many other books of criticism, poetry and fiction, and the recipient of the American Book Award. His most recent book is the (more...)
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