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Wrong Turn

By       Message Gene Altshuler     Permalink
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Tis the times' plague when madmen lead the blind - William Shakespeare.

"American politics has often been an arena for angry minds. In recent years extreme right-wingers"have demonstrated how much political leverage can be got out of the animosities and passions of a small minority. Behind this is a style of mind that is far from new and is not necessarily right wing. I call it the paranoid style simply because no other word adequately evokes the sense of heated exaggeration, suspiciousness and conspiratorial fantasy I have in mind."

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"The idea of the paranoid style as a force in politics would have little contemporary relevance or historical value if it were applied to men with profoundly disturbed minds. It is the use of paranoid modes of expression by more or less normal people that makes the phenomenon significant."

Richard Hofstadter wrote these words over half a century ago when he referred to the dangers of an aggrieved right-wing minority with the power to create "a political climate in which the rational pursuit of our well-being and safety would become impossible."

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While much has been written about the current political paranoia, the Tea Party movement, it is clearly the expression of the most disaffected people in our society, people who fervently believe that something is wrong with our country.

While there ha always been disaffection from political administrations or religious movements (Jesus was himself expressing disaffection with the Sanhedrin, the ruling council of the ancient Jewish nation), for the most part spokespersons for earlier movements believed that they stood for causes and were fending off threats to an established way of life. However, the modern right wing Neocons feel disaffected in a different way, believing that the United States has already been taken away from them and their kind (thus the cry "I want my country back"). And they are determined to take it back, some even by violent means.

That history repeats itself is a given. Sure the details may be a bit different with each repetition but the overall effect is eerily the same. Richard Hofstadter wrote in 1962 (in his book Anti-Intellectualism in American Life) that, "Malignant and vindictive passions often arise when an aggrieved minority believes that America has been largely taken away from them and their kind. They are determined to try to repossess it and to prevent the final destructive act of subversion."

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The Tea Party movement hankers for a return to a fantasy world, much as the fundamentalist Muslims would like to return to a 14th century caliphate. They long for a world where Wall Street and corporate greed has not replaced the old fashion virtues of the Protestant ethic, where competitive capitalism is in place and people pay their own way, and national security and individual freedoms have not been undermined by socialistic and communist schemers.

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Retired as a Partner in Charge of Advanced Information Technology from KPMG Peat Marwick. Serves as Finance Chair of the El Dorado County Central Committee in northern California and a delegate to the California Democratic Party.

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