Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Return to Sanity

In this strange political season, I’m a big supporter for a return to sanity. (And today, thousands are gathering in Washington, DC, for Jon Stewart's Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear.)

This is perhaps best known as the season of the angry voter. The rise of the Tea Party movement is marked by many who are angry at the system, and often angry at both political parties. Some are angry about illegal immigration. Some are angry at the big bail-outs. Some are angry at the incredible amount spend on the stimulus. Some are angry about the new federal health care bill. Some are angry at Obama. Many would vote “all of the above.”

In 2008, the Democrats rose to power by sweeping the White House and majorities in the House and Senate. In large part, their victories can be linked to anger, too. Anger at the big spending of the Republican Bush administration in the middle added to traditional Democrat supporters who were angry at the war-waging policies of the Bush administration, loss of liberties and other conservative policies. In many instances, the Bush Administration wrapped its policies in the flag, so if one were a true patriot, one would not oppose their policies.

Well, in all of this, I fear this great democracy is losing its tradition of democracy. What happened to debating the issues of the day, without demonizing your opponent?

In the early days of the tea party, we heard about angry people coming to meetings with their representatives and shouting down others. Then there were the unrelentless rants of right-wing media mega-mouths, such as Rush Limbaugh or Glen Beck. Later, Sarah Palin, a once-interesting and different politician now turned party-line mouthpiece and Fox News employee, was added to the chorus. The conservative media chorus takes its cues from the policies that have traction with the angry -- immigration, unemployment, high taxes, big spending, big government – and blend these with a not-so-subtle appeal to outright racism, namely, President Obama and the brown-skinned immigrants, to name a few.

Injected with typical conservative policy are misrepresentations, conspiracy theories, and outright lies:
  • “Death panels” in the health reform bill
  • Pres. Obama was not born in the US \
  • Pres. Obama is a Muslim and not a Christian
  • The democrats want to round up guns and gun owners
  • Obama has a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture. I’m not saying he doesn’t like white people. I’m saying he has a problem. This guy is, I believe, a racist.” (Glen Beck on Fox News)
  • The director of White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, "has proposed forcing abortions and putting sterilants in the drinking water to control population." (again, Glen Beck)
  • A claim by Glen Beck that he could not debunk theories that concentration camps are being built by the Obama White House as part of a conspiracy to establish totalitarian rule in America According to Beck, "If you have any fear that we might be heading toward a totalitarian state, look out. There is something happening in our country and it ain't good."

What this is resulting in is a number of candidates who are intolerant of compromise or negotiations with those with opposing ideas. There are now a series of litmus tests – including cutting taxes, strong measures against illegal immigrants, abortion, denying the occurrence of global warming – that candidates must pass. A Republican who might believe that some environmental-friendly policies may benefit businesses is labeled a RINO (Republican in name only).

This is very much like the ideological purity that occurs in fascism or a fundamentalist religious sect. Many of those shouting call Pres. Obama a fascist, but I find their methods to be more typical of fascist states where the people are fed an unending litany of intolerance, lies, and hate. All with no opportunity to think for oneself.

But despite my fatalistic assessment, I still have hope. I hope for a return to sanity!


  1. Great assessment of the situation. I think that what is needed most is a return to civility. Democracy is not in danger yet anyway. And for sanity to be restored, there would have to be an end to the blind faith which certain people place in there leaders. I've noticed that a number of evangelicals are developing what I would term "pastoral infallibility". This is why so many Americans believe these falsehoods you mentioned in your post; because they believe that there ministers speak with inspiration of the Holy Spirit. So if there pastor states from his bully pulpit that Obama is the antichrist, or something, the faithful will take it to heart, no matter what we might say. They'll just insist that they have the truth of God, and that we're deceived by the world. This is what I've run into, in my dealings with them, which includes my own family. Why just recently I was even forwarded an e-mail, by my father. It claimed that the healthcare bill includes a section that will establish Islamic rule. I responded to him, and his cousin whom originally sent it, by refuting it, and rebuking them both for bearing false witness. I usually just ignore the right-wing views of my family members, in the interests of domestic tranquillity. But when they're saying things I know to be untrue, I feel duty bound to correct them. Even though they tend to conclude that it's folks like you who are wrongly influencing me. So it's largely an exercise in futilty, as they will believe what they choose, no matter the evidence. So that's what I think is the heart of the problem; belief in false doctrines, as a matter of faith.

  2. Red Knight: As a Christian myself, I believe in testifying to the truth. While I think some folks are due a little "slack" when they are told untruths by people they believe, nevertheless, it is important to speak out about outright lies. People who are strong in their beliefs may not be receptive to someone showing their beliefs are based on lies. So, I'd say, keep testifying to the truth, but don't expect your family to believe you.