Well, it’s certainly been one nutty week. Between Rep. Sally Kern (R-OK) and Donald Trump, there’s no question that racism and stupidity are alive and well in the U.S., or at least in the GOP. Both received suitable karmic comeuppance for their misdeeds. The pushback against Kern (and her backpedaling mess of a statement in defense of her racist remarks) caused a temporary crash of her website as people logged on to voice their outrage. “The Donald” was roasted-by both President Obama and SNL’s Seth Meyers-at last night’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner. (Who’s fired now, bitch?) It was heartening to see the strong and swift responses to such egregious nonsense.
Of course, these incidents with Kern and Trump are just two examples of the GOP getting its crazy on. There have been countless others. All of this makes me wonder as to the potency of the party. Will all the outrageous ignorance and blatant racism ultimately serve to erode the GOP’s credibility? Or are they pandering to an equally insane and scary majority that will beef up their numbers in the 2012 presidential election? I would like to believe the former. However, the stupidity of the American people should never be underestimated. The fact that George W. Bush was elected to a second term is case in point one. That some people still believe that President Obama was not born on the U.S. is case in point two. The list could go on and on.
I’m truly mystified by the fervent hostility and slobbering ignorance that seems to be prevailing in the conservative movement in this country. Where is all this hate and crazy coming from anyway? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that racism is at the core of much of the heinous behavior from the right. Sadly, there is a frightening and disappointing segment of our population that absolutely can’t stand it that we have a black president; they seek to discredit him at every turn and with any means they can think of, no matter how ridiculous. I think another contributing factor to the current climate is the rise of Christian Evangelicals who have a fundamental misunderstanding of the establishment clause of in the First Amendment of the Constitution. Perhaps it’s not a misunderstanding but an abject disregard. The end result is the same; the minute one group claims that its God is running things it makes the field wide-open for crazy and, apparently, hatred. I think hatred is ultimately fueled by fear. But what all these people-especially the ones claiming to have “faith”- are so afraid of is the subject for a deeper sociological analysis on another day.
I'd like to take a moment to say a word about Sally Kern, Oklahoma and Christianity. I was born and raised in Oklahoma. Sally Kern is not representative of the people I knew growing up. Her bigotry is a disservice to all Oklahomans, both present and former. I hope that Oklahomans will demand her resignation. Also, although I no longer consider myself a Christian, I was brought up in the Presbyterian Church. I am appalled by some of the hatred that I see carried out “in God’s name.” This is not the Christianity that I used to know.
Shenanigans such as the birther crusade only serve to distract from some pretty big flipping problems here in the U.S. Millions of people are still unemployed or are working part-time jobs because they can’t find full-time gigs. We’re currently engaged in three wars. Women are fighting for the right to control their fertility as granted by Roe v. Wade. Gays and lesbians continue to be attacked on all fronts and are denied basic rights that their heterosexual brethren take for granted. Corporate greed is eroding the fiscal fabric of the nation. We have some major shit to deal with here. So moving forward-especially with an eye on the upcoming presidential election-a big question lingers:
WHO IS GOING TO SET THE INTELLECTUAL TONE OF THE UNITED STATES?
Of course, racism and bigotry should be called out and challenged at every turn. In response to Donald Trump and Sally Kern, American intelligentsia appropriately expressed its outrage through Facebook, Twitter and the blogosphere. There was rigorous push back. But given the sizeable issues in front of us, we have to be more than mere hick patrol. We have to proactively elevate the conversation. We need to firmly set the agenda in a way that they are responding to us and not the other way around. Indeed, it’s tricky; as I pointed out earlier in the post, it’s hard to decipher the impact of the crazy, to know what to pounce on and when to let the GOP hang itself. At present, the list of potential GOP candidates for the presidency includes Donald Trump, Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Newt Ginrich and Sarah Palin. Each of these has already made his/her own contributions to the vitriolic and philistine tone of the party. If these represent the best of what the GOP has to offer, then we should gear up for more nonsense because it is surely coming. However, I say we can do better than that-much better. Intelligent and informed debate is not cultural elitism. Instead, it is the radical vision of an America that is much greater than its lowest common denominator.
Postscript: I wrote this post several hours before the news of Osama bin Laden’s death was announced. It will be interesting to see how this development impacts the tone and depth of the political conversation in the U.S.