“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” – Statute of Liberty
For the past two years the Republicans, the tea-partiers, and the other wing-nuts have been waging war, but despite the prognosticators on cable and the talking heads they are not at war with President Obama, the Muslims, or the Latinos. These folks are not upset about health-care reform, deficits, or bail-outs. This war is not about secret Muslim terrorist’s plots, socialist takeovers, or gangster governments. What we are witnessing is the historic battle between those who cling to a false sense of history against what they see as an uncertain and frightening future. A future that is frightening because it is looking darker and more foreign.
For all of the talk about the promise that is America the truth is that there is and always has been a large segment of our society that has sought to prevent the inevitable movement into tomorrow. The one constant in life is change and those cultures that have resisted change have done so at their own demise. It’s not like we don’t have thousands of years of human history to study and learn from. But let’s not forget that the Flat Earth Society still meets annually. All we have to do is look at our own brief history to witness the lengths that some will go to prevent the march of time. Our history is filled with anti-immigrant, anti-religion, and racial prejudice all under the same pretense of maintaining someone’s version of their America that didn’t include the unfortunate groups who were targeted.
It is mind boggling to me how those who sought change, tolerance, and what appeared to be an embracing of the future by electing our current president could so easily be frightened by the rhetoric of those who for personal gain are willing to stoke the fears of so many. I believe that America is schizophrenic. On the one hand we want to be perceived as this nation of tolerance and equal opportunity and on the other hand we cling to this desire to maintain the status quo. Change is great so long as nothing really changes or change is what other people need to do. I believe that there is a deep seated fear within all of us that we try to keep hidden. A fear that dates back to the beginning of human time that if fed or left to fester can lead to unspeakable horrors in the human soul.
We all at some point have had to face this fear of the others. Some of us have been able to confront these fears and overcome them and are better people for it. However, there is also a segment of the population who has chosen not to confront these fears and instead have chosen to allow innuendo and stereotypes to reinforce their worst fears about their fellow citizens. I guess it just goes to show that if you repeat something often enough and loud enough some people will eventually begin to believe it. What is troubling to me about this current state of political discourse is that the further we get into the term of this president the more people begin to question his religion, his right to be president, and even his Americaness.
What the wing-nuts don’t seem to understand is that in a republic form of democracy the representatives govern by the agreement of the governed. Once you delegitimize the government then anarchy and chaos are sure to follow. You can’t throw gas on the conspiracy crowd by calling the government illegitimate and unlawful and then expect them to recognize it for the rhetoric that it is. I don’t think there is any serious person who would argue that our government is broken, but those who have for years worked to break it should not be rewarded for their efforts.
We have a choice in America as we’ve always had. We can cling to our fear of the future and each other choosing to try and go backwards. The problem with that strategy is that you can never go backwards because the world you are trying to recapture never truly existed. Or we can continue on the path we have embarked on choosing rather than fearing change we embrace it and rationally direct it.
The liberties of none are safe unless the liberties of all are protected. – Justice William O. Douglas
The Disputed Truth