He Can’t Ignore it Forever

Posted: August 31, 2010 in Uncategorized

President Obama claims to have ignored noted charlatan Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally that took place at the National Mall on the forty-seventh anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, chuckling when NBC’s Brian Williams asked him about the recent polls which suggest that up to one in four Americans believe that he is a Muslim. We’ve continuously heard accusations that he’s foreign-born, a socialist, a racist, and that he consorts with demons through the blood of white, Christian babies (okay I made that one up, but just wait). Of course these claims are ridiculous, absurd and an infuriating, time-wasting distraction from the more important issues of the day, but a growing number of Americans are listening to them and taking them seriously. The clear wages of this demagoguery should be shocking and alarming. It is a state of affairs that Obama ignores at our peril.

Nothing highlights the growing madness in American political life as does the controversy surrounding the Park51 Muslim Community Center which, two blocks from Ground Zero, has been dubbed such panic-inducing names as the “Terror Mosque” or the “9/11 Victory Mosque” even if it isn’t actually itself a mosque. I admit I initially shared a goodly amount of trepidation over the proposed community center because I, like too many other Americans sincerely thought at first that it was a mosque and, under that misrepresentation thought that building one so close to Ground Zero was not a threatening gesture, but insensitive and in poor taste. I am a dedicated Atheist and sincerely regard Islam as threatening as I do Christianity and Judaism. But what’s going on here, however, is bigger than that. Examine the Park 51 controversy for a moment by paring it alongside the crazy that’s been dialed all the way up to the highest volume over such issues as Hispanics in the illegal immigration panic, African-Americans in the Shirley Sherrod and ACORN fabrications, Gays over marriage equality and Proposition 8, etc., et. al.. The list goes on. Looking at the bigger picture I have come to understand it as one more battle in a larger assault by conservatives on American Pluralism, the idea that of people from differing backgrounds can peacefully co-exist and enjoy a full and equal share of citizenship. This is an idea that is under attack and we cannot ignore it.

President Obama might believe that this is a “silly season” in politics that will fade if he just laughs it off and goes about his day, but this is a season that has lasted for almost two years. It’s not going away and it’s only going to get worse by ignoring it. People like Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin are glaring examples as to how democracies die, warming the hearts of their growing number of followers with glittering generalities about America, honor, faith and other seemingly innocuous words and phrases, that we can protect this country, take it back, and make it prosperous again if we only cut taxes for the rich, install a permanent Republican majority, and make the brown folks go away. Or gays, or leftist intellectuals, or liberals, or Muslims, and so on and so on. It may certainly be tempting for centrists and liberals to follow Obama’s example and be similarly dismissive of the crazies in the Tea Party and the influence that they have on the Republicans, but the only response is to grow a spine, get right up into their faces and call them out for liars that they are. We can’t ignore the Tea Party crowd forever. We do so at our peril.

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