When President Obama was elected, I was prouder of my country than I have ever been. I dared to think that Americans had finally grown up and turned a corner on the poisonous hate of racism and, in truth, half the electorate has. But too many of our citizens made a U-turn back into racist muck.
The hate-mongering began during the presidential campaign. Who can ever forget the McCain/Palin rally where Palin was trying to whip the crowd into a frenzy by demonizing Obama as a terrorist. She succeeded. "Kill him," a member of the crowd shouted.
Since President Obama took office, racism has continued steaming up like swamp gas from every Republican/Tea Party/right-wing fundamentalist rabble-rousing orifice. So pervasive is the hate-Obama campaign that the entire Republican contingent in Congress turned its back on this nation and set a seditious agenda to bring down Obama's Presidency by obstructing, blockading, stalling, misrepresenting, lying and saying "No" to whatever this administration wanted to accomplish.
Anyone who has studied history recognizes the bullying scenario: Appeal to the most primitive human fear--fear of the "Other." Demonize Obama into a fearsome "other"--someone unlike "us." Enlist a propaganda agency--in this case, the misnamed Fox News--and a few willing hate-mongers who command large audiences to spread the word. Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin slide neatly into those slots. Then spread lies about Obama designed to scare people to death. So the lies proliferate about Obama's birth, his citizenship, his political philosophy, and his religion. In February 2009, Rupert Murdoch's right-wing tabloid, the New York Post, published a racist cartoon that depicted Obama as a chimpanzee being shot by cops. More recently, Tea Party signs depict him as Hitler and Lenin.
In September 2009, the Rev. Steven L. Anderson of Tempe, Arizona, preached a sermon he titled, "Why I Hate Barack Obama." During the sermon, Anderson said, "When I go to bed tonight, Steven L. Anderson is going to pray for Barack Obama to die and go to hell," So much for the reverend's Christian love and peace.
Also in September 2009, during Obama's address to Congress about health care, South Carolina Republican Rep. Joe Wilson shouted, "You lie!" Afterwards, former President Jimmy Carter said Wilson's disrespectful outburst was "based on racism" and ran "deeper" than mere policy opposition. "There is an inherent feeling among many in this country that an African-American should not be president," Carter said.
It's ugly. More than ugly, there's madness afoot. As we near the November elections, the exhortations to hate are becoming more frenzied, more dangerous. The most recent ploy is to gain a "twofer"--whip the crowd into anti-Muslim hate and propagandize Obama, a devout Christian, as a Muslim. The trigger for this propaganda is the proposed mosque two blocks from "Ground Zero," site of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centers in New York City. Protests and heated opposition seared by hate and fear have dominated the airways. Incredibly only a few politicians or either party have stepped forward to defend our country's separation of church and state. Have they all been bought?
The most eloquent statement came from New York City's Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Aug. 3, 2010: "Whatever you may think of the proposed mosque and community center, lost in the heat of the debate has been a basic question should government attempt to deny private citizens the right to build a house of worship on private property based on their particular religion? That may happen in other countries, but we should never allow it to happen here. This nation was founded on the principle that the government must never choose between religions, or favor one over another.
"We would betray our values and play into our enemies' hands if we were to treat Muslims differently than anyone else. In fact, to cave to popular sentiment would be to hand a victory to the terrorists and we should not stand for that. For that reason, I believe that this is . . . as important a test of the separation of church and state as we may see in our lifetime and it is critically important that we get it right."
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