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."
The only other prominent Republican to come forward and defend our precious Bill of Rights was Congressman Ron Paul of Texas: "The fact that so much attention has been given the mosque debate, raises the question of just why and driven by whom? . . . In my opinion it has come from the neo-conservatives who demand continual war in the Middle East and Central Asia and are compelled to constantly justify it.
They never miss a chance to use hatred toward Muslims to rally support for the ill conceived preventative wars."
Not surprisingly, some Republicans are now trying to paint Congressman Paul as a left-wing ally of Democrats.
Where are other voices speaking out against the madness of hate? Where are Republicans who should know better? Where are Senators Olympia Snowe Susan Collins? Where are the Democrats -- Senators Barbara Boxer, Russ Feingold, John Kerry and Sherrod Brown? Not even Minnesota Senator Al Franken has raised his voice. Why haven't they rushed to defend the 1st Amendment to our precious Constitution, which guarantees freedom of religion, speech, the press, peaceful assembly and the right to petition the government for redress of grievances. Does anybody believe in democracy anymore? Did anybody, going back to the founders, ever believe in it? Since the Nixon and Reagan administrations, and accelerated by the Bush/Cheney administration, we have seen our Bill of Rights shredded and the "freedoms" politicians talk about so piously, curtailed. Al Queda can see it, too. We are ripe for the picking.
Meanwhile, the bloviators haven't hesitated to spew their racist venom. Hate-rouser-in-chief, Rush Limbaugh, referred to President Obama as "Imam Obana," and added he's "the best anti-American President the country's ever had."
The campaign of lies is taking hold. According to an August 2010 Pew Research poll, nearly one in five Americans (18 percent) say Obama is a Muslim, up from 11 percent in March 2009. Roughly one-third (34 percent) of right-wing Republicans say Obama is a Muslim.
The hate madness is dangerous--not only to the President but to our country. One of the extremist Republican Tea Party politicians, Sharron Angle, senate candidate in Nevada, issued a call to armed rebellion. During a radio interview on June 16, 2010, she said, " I feel that the Second Amendment is the right to keep and bear arms for our citizenry. This not for someone who's in the military. This not for law enforcement. This is for us. And in fact when you read that Constitution and the founding fathers, they intended this to stop tyranny. This is for us when our government becomes tyrannical... it's to defend ourselves. And you know, I'm hoping that we're not getting to Second Amendment remedies."