Sunday, October 26, 2008

America’s Next Civil War

America is poised on the edge of a new era. We are (knock on wood) just about to elect our first Black President. This comes on the heels of what some are describing as the bleakest eight years in American history, culminating in what could become a worse economic collapse than that of the Great Depression of the 1930’s. Americans’ willingness to embrace a man of African descent for President rides hard on their rising certainty that the old guard got it desperately wrong.

As the old era collapses before our eyes, desperate old men are flailing about in an attempt to retain power, if not necessarily to reconsolidate it. Even if the presidency be lost for the old guard, a super minority in the Senate might still be avoided. And so the old boys (and their new girl) are spilling and spattering out words and sentiments intended to divide and to spread fear. Their only chance of retaining a sliver of power in Washington, as they view it, is to manipulate the fear and visceral hatred of the “other” into votes against the better interests of their constituents.

There is nothing new about this in America, and especially in American politics. Senator Joseph McCarthy used these tactics like a maestro in the 1950’s. Segregationists incited murder in the 50’s and 60’s, and the 90’s found our country fearing gays and illegal aliens as if the core of our existence were under attack.

What is troubling now is the way in which those, who truly believe that there is a pro-American crowd and an anti-American crowd in our midst, are being marginalized into a tight-knit stronghold of “us and them” mentality.

The past eight years have been the culmination of thirty years which started with Ronald Reagan, during which time we have had the American economy shift so far to the top-down model that the inevitable collapse has finally arrived. Most Americans are becoming aware of the flaw in this ointment, and are ready to return to the bottoms-up approach favored by Franklin Roosevelt. And while we would love to keep our heads embedded firmly in the sand, we understand in our guts just how much hard work we have ahead of us. Our dawning new day is not a panacea; it is simply a necessary step we must take if we are even to have a chance at rebuilding this troubled land.

As we cast our ballots in favor of a better future, few if any of us do so in spite. We don’t see the “real Americans” who see us as “anti-American,” as enemies. Neither do we look down our noses at them. I believe that if the “God and guns” crowd understood how they have been mercilessly used and manipulated toward the ends of folks who couldn’t give a fat nickel for their fates, these people would rise up in an anger yet unseen in our nation’s history. Unfortunately, even that statement is likely to be seen as elitist.

There is a very large group of Americans, perhaps twenty-five to thirty percent of us, who have been thoroughly manipulated and maneuvered into positions of fear and hatred for decades now. Social engineers, most often in the guise of radio talk show hosts, have employed the same brainwashing techniques used by cult leaders and Jihadists.
Quotes like these are very telling:

"Liberals hate real Americans that work, and accomplish and achieve." – Rep. Robin Hayes, R-North Carolina

"(“Real America” is) something Barack Obama can't possibly know, because he's not one of us. It's like the way (Richard) Nixon was able to talk to the hard hats." – Jim Wilson, a Colorado District Attorney

"I had to work for everything I got. That's what I was taught, and Sarah Palin understands that. People like Obama, they get driven in vans all over Washington. Palin's a working mom." - Reese Resnick, a Durango CO oil and gas industry salesman

These are disturbing sentiments. The most troubling aspect of these statements is that the fact-checkable portions of them are simply false. The first statement cannot be fact-checked, but I am liberal and I can assure that I have no hate for Americans that work, accomplish and achieve – in fact, I am one of those folks myself. The next statement, that Barack Obama is not one of us is simply ridiculous, unless you redefine “us.” But if you redefine “us,” you have undefined America, and have written her a new history. The final statement implies that Barack Obama was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Who is telling people such obvious lies?

I listened in dumbstruck fascination as a self-admitted listener to radio talk show host Michael Savage called a progressive host to tell her that Barack Obama was not in Hawaii to visit his dying grandmother; he was there to obtain a fake birth certificate since he had no real one. Source of this lie: I would guess it must be Michael Savage himself. He used to inhabit the dark corridors of a local talk radio station, and his dishonest vitriol is nearly unparalleled. But the point is this: once people have been indoctrinated sufficiently into the “us and them” world view, you can tell them almost anything that bolsters that view, and they will accept it without a thought.

Something on the order of seventy-five million Americans, who are otherwise mostly perfectly good people, have been so conditioned. That’s a blanket figure and a blanket statement, but I think the poll numbers back this up. We can push forward our progressive agendas and plans, and we should and must, but we are leaving behind the hearts and minds of this increasingly marginalized group. And there will be a piper to be paid. The conditioning of these Americans is such that for every move we make as a nation toward revitalization in a bottoms-up economy, and toward a more tolerant society, there will be a counter hardening of resolve in the camp of “real Americans.”

Nothing that grows malignantly is sustainable. Even seemingly benign malignancies (like stock-market bubbles) must eventually come crashing down. The polarization of American culture is not sustainable either. I firmly believe that a progressive, tolerant, bottoms-up America is an America on the right track. I am also fairly certain that the far-right crowd which fancies itself as the “real America” is not going to change their minds any time soon. So while we are rolling up our sleeves to rebuild our failing infrastructure, and reinvigorating our public school systems, and building a green economy, we all had better be watching over our shoulders. There’s a civil war brewing. And they have all the guns.


Beth said...

That's why Obama built a movement rather than just running to win an office. It will take a movement of the majority of us to move the country forward. If we get complete power - we must hold our own representatives feet to the fire. Even if he only keeps a slim majority 'engaged' and plugged in - it will be enough to move us forward. If he can start the momentum - he can do it. He's already out organized the Clinton machine and the RNC....he can do it - I believe!

Yar said...

That's more or less what both Bonnie and my Brother John said. But I need to clarify; I wasn't being negative. I have this extremely bad habit of saying things in a stark manner that end up being taken as negative.

I just want us to be cognizent of what we are up against. Paul Revere was not being negative as he announced that the British were coming. He was warning the like-minded to action.

Anonymous said...

Obama may be a man, but he is not another Paul Revere. More like what Revere was warning against, those who will control without regard to individuals.

Yar said...

To anonymous: If you read my comment above, I was actually referring to myself when I mentioned Paul Revere. And no, I was not equating my actions to that of a hero. I was speaking about how sending out a warning is not equivalent to being fearful.

But you seem to have missed that message entirely. Please re-read both my post and my subsequent comments, and take careful notes. Perhaps then you can provide some cogent remarks.