Thursday, September 17, 2009
Weimar Moments 2: "Obama Derangement Syndrome"
We delude ourselves in this country if we think we're in the middle of a really nasty debate over health care. What is really happening is some sort of freak phenomenon that somebody has rightly called "Obama Derangement Syndrome." When, inevitably, we find ourselves looking back over all the unsavory events of this frenzied summer of 2009, I think Joe Wilson's disruptive "Liar!" moment will be recognized as the tipping point when (as Frank Rich put it so aptly in last Sunday's New York Times), "the inmates took over the asylum."
Catalyzed by hate, a Republican member of the Senate unexpectedly gives his secret audience an official "thumbs-up"--which declares that it is perfectly acceptable not only to derail the President, but also, by his own dramatic example, to show disrespect to the U.S. government and its institutions. This "liar!" moment was hardly the "spontaneous" welling-up of anger Wilson later proclaimed it to be. It was timed and aimed precisely as the words "undocumented immigrants" passed through the President's lips. And it signaled to all the growing "patriot" brigades out there--those groups whose vision of America is of an exclusively white, Christian country and who protest because "We want our country back!"--that the time has come for concerted, vehement action. The very next day, ordinary people took to the streets in Washington D.C., holding up signs that said "Liar! Liar! Liar! Liar!" affixed to pictures of President Obama. And, believe me, this was only the half of it.
Vicious invectives like these are being attached to political blogs everywhere:
"Nobody is afraid of the CIRCUS CLOWN Community Organizer."
"You're stupid if you take this BIG EARED AFRICAN FREAK seriously."
"Nobody. His stupid smile and his coa-coa skin just doesn't cause UTOPIA anymore."
Such slurs, resounding not just over the Internet but across Cable news and right-wing talk radio as well, are like an apocalyptic plague of locusts descending down upon the human race. They fill one with a tactile sensation of horror: an aspect of so-called "enlightened" society that has gone defiantly feral. And they are not going away any time soon.
The day after reading my previous blog (number one in an ongoing series of "Weimar Moments," which states that "socialist" is the new code word for "nigger"), my friend Jane wrote me:
"Last night I painted late into the wee hours, and I found an Atlanta radio station with Michael Savage, the late-night Rush Limbaugh. "Socialist" was the most composed word he used. He insinuated that Obama would soon gather up the Republican opposition into camps where they wouldn't be heard from again (genocidal maniac) and that he would dilute our national masculinity until, as he put it, we would all soon be "on all fours," praying to Allah...."
"I am hoping that the fearful brains of the furious men and women who see my President as a chimpanzee do not blow too hard with their blind force," she continued. "I am hoping that they do not flatten our landscape. But at the moment it feels like they are huffing and puffing at The White House (literally, protesters all but foaming in D.C. right now, castigating illegal immigrants, pro-choice supporters, gays, blacks, communists, socialists, Muslim sympathizers, god knows what other offenders). My painting is of a languid reclining Buddha with a turbulent indigo river swollen and racing behind him, and a downpour of rain and candy splashing against him. He seems to be enjoying the Candied Monsoon. Nowhere even in the background can you see those D.C. protesters in my painting. They have not gotten as far as this riverbank. They are never going to find some places."
Oh, how I wish my friend Jane was right! As far as I can tell, they are already massing in droves, quite near the riverbank. I've just finished reading the recently published "Intelligence Report" from the Southern Poverty Law Center, whose research indicates a radical resurgence of Klu Klux Klan and white nationalism movements. These groups are composed variously of neo-Nazis, white supremacists, teabaggers, tax protesters, Holocaust deniers, Oathkeepers, "birthers" (who question the legitimacy of Obama's citizenship), Swiftboaters, Survivalists, "Sovereign Citizens" (who declare themselves outside the jurisdiction of the police and the courts), and anti-government "Patriots" (who believe the Feds have set up 1000 internment camps and are storing 30,000 guillotines and caskets for when the government finally declares martial law and moves in on dissenters). Many of them are now banding together via the Internet and forming coalitions. These groups are well-funded and well-organized, and their goal is to push our entire society into a ditch and start a race war.
After their disappearance from public view for nearly a decade, there has been a huge and worrying uptick in these outlaw militia organizations and their propaganda, creating a milieu "where violence is a likely outcome," the report states. On the Oathkeepers' website, for instance, you will find the declaration "We will not fear our government. They will fear us." And should you feel inspired by this, you can purchase a tee-shirt with their logo: "I'm a Right Wing Extremist and Damn Proud of It." (Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!)
Meanwhile, I seem to have acquired a new blogging companion-in-arms in cyberspace, one Tom Degan. Please dont fail to check out his website, "The Rant," at tomdegan.blogspot.com. I am now going to give the steering wheel over to Tom, and let words from his most recent blog finish this post and drive it home:
"The extreme right wing is at the moment having a collective, massive nervous breakdown. They just refuse to accept the nasty little fact that a black guy is now the most powerful human being on the face of the earth - and it is killing them....
Here's what's happening, boys and girls: The "party of Abraham Lincoln" (Imagine that!) has forever been exposed as morally and ethically bankrupt, and they are now in the process of implementing their "scorched earth" policy. In other words, if they have to go down, they have every intention of bringing the rest of us down with them.
If you thought for one minute that the loony right wing had lost all the marbles they could possibly lose - OH, BROTHER! - As the late Al Jolson used to say, "You ain't seen nothin' yet!" ...
Joe Wilson and the nincompoops on the far right have opened a Pandora's Box that may very well prove difficult to close. What they are now doing - consciously or unconsciously - is prompting their brain-dead masses toward violence and intimidation. And let's not forget the untidy little truism that a lot of these folks are armed and dangerous. Who can forget the asshole who showed up outside one of the president's Town Hall meetings in New Hampshire last month with a gun strapped to his leg? My biggest worry is that that little incident is merely a small illustration of worst things to come.
Listen, I really hate to be the bearer of bad tidings here, I really do. But if you can't foresee some kind of Timothy McVeigh-style domestic incident somewhere down the pike, you're a hell of a lot more optimistic than I am. Also, if you are not seriously alarmed by what is now happening to our beloved country, you're not paying attention."