Political dissent is the life force that is supposed to fuel the politics in this nation. The idea that all men are created equal was the foundation for a representative democracy. But what happens when reasonable and rational dissent is turned into visceral, disgusting slandering? What happens when the political climate of our nation adopts a lynchmob mentality?
Unfortunately this is the case with the current political climate surrounding President Barack Obama. There are many rational points where people can disagree with President Obama, from the continuation of the bailouts on the big Wall Street Banks, to his policies on energy, the increasing deficit or how to go about health care reform. Despite my fervent support of him last year, I have used ths forum to criticize the President on many occasions. In fact, it can be said that we must have those voices of dissent during this critical time in order to keep the President's policies in line.
However, the type of attacks that currently being hurled towards the President in recent Town Hall meetings, protests and rallies have, instead of being rational discussions about where we may not agree on policy, have turned into a shining example of the divisive, hate-filled politics of racism that is still festering in this nation.
Of course, we probably should have seen this coming during last year's campaign when there were insults at John McCain/Sarah Palin rallies hurled towards the President using terms like "traitor," "off with his head," and "terrorist." The divisive nature of the campaign became so much that Congressman John Lewis of Georgia, one of the original Freedom Riders who traveled throughout the South to ensure racial equality and who was also an aide of Dr. Martin Luther King Junior, spoke out in concern, and compared the rhetoric to that of former Alabama Governor George Wallace.
Congressman Lewis wrote in a note this past October, "George Wallace never threw a bomb, he never fired a gun, but he created the climate and the conditions that encouraged vicious attacks against innocent Americans who were simply trying to exercise their constitutional rights. Because of this atmosphere of hate, four little girls were killed on Sunday morning when a church was bombed in Birmingham, Alabama." Lewis continues, "“As public figures with the power to influence and persuade, Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin are playing with fire, and if they are not careful, that fire will consume us all."
That fire unfortunately was not extinguished on that evening in Grant Park on November 4, 2008. Nor did it die on that winter day on January 20, 2009 in Washington D.C. Rather, it appears to have been purified and it is in this form, that it looks to have begun to "consume us all," as Congressman Lewis had warned us it would.
All over the country, it seems that people, instead of talking about the policy differences, have favored to insult the President on issues like his race and even of his Americanism. In one town hall this past July, a womanyelled out "[President Obama] is not an American citizen, he's a citizen of Kenya" and later proclaimed, "I want my country back." This has unfortunately become a rallying cry for this hate-filled movement; that these people, have been tricked into believing that they are losing their nation. The nation that they stole from the indigenous people and built on the backs of slaves. The nation that for years harbored and even encouraged hatred and the treating of certain people as second class or even non-citizens. That is the nation that they are longing for. The nation that allowed them to publicly express their hate.
It has gone so far in fact, that in the House of Representatives, there is currently a Bill that will ask for future Presidential Candidates to provide a Birth Certificate. We have birthers in the House of Representatives. The people who are supposed to knock down these ridiculous ideas are the ones who are increasing their validity.
As a former Republican myself, this makes me question why I was ever a part of this party. The fact that the actual Republicans in power have done nothing to try and tame their constituents is even more dispicable. By doing so, they are fanning the flames of this hatred.
Of course, this crazy movement of hatred is not being executed by all Republicans. When at a rally for his Presidential Campaign, John McCain denounced the idea that somehow his then-opponent was a foreigner. RNC Chairman Michael Steele, has himself denied the "birther" conspiracy. Yet, unfortunately, it appears these voices of reason are the minority of their party rather than the majority. In a poll done last month, less than 25% of Republicans believe that President Obama is an American citizen.
America was founded on the backs of slaves. Racism is an inherent part of Americanism. Yet, what is going on here is worse than that. It is reverting black people back to the Dredd Scott decision in 1857, where it was decided by then Chief Justice Roger Tamey that Blacks were not citizens and therefore, did not have the rights as the White man did
The campaign to strip President Obama of his legitmacy as an American citizen is of course nothing new. The Right Wing Propaganda machine has always tried to strip liberals of their Americanism. They did it with Michael Dukakis in 1988 with the Willie Horton ad. In 2004, they stripped Bush's Presidential opponent Senator John Kerry of his service to this country to make him seem like less of a patriot than a man who dodged the draft.
Yet, what these same people are doing to President Obama is even worse. In last year's campaign, they accused him of not being a Christian, therefore making him seem like a threat to the American Culture. They stripped him of his patriotism, to make him seem like he would not protect this nation. Now, they have committed the ultimate insult: stirpping a President of his citizenship. I never thought I would see the day that a black man would become President but I never imagined I would see the day where a group of right wing lunatics tried to strip a President of his Americanism.
So now I address my attention, to the moderate Republicans. The rationals who do not buy into this propaganda, like my friends ASU Western Senator Matthew Gregory Phy, Andrew Acevedo, and Brinn Knutson, if you do not try and tame the fringe members of your party, you are just as responsible for spreading this hate speech as anyone who is actually proclaiming this rhetoric. Unless you admit that not only is President Obama a citizen, but also a Patriot, who, even though he may be wrong, still loves his country, then you are helping to fan the flames of the fire that Congressman Lewis warned about, and in turn, consume us all.