Angry Whites with Guns

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For the past few months I’ve been tracking the trajectory of the health care debate back at home. I’ve been reading articles on left and right-wing sites, watching video, and wasting countless hours perusing, lurking, and baiting people on the message boards. As I’m sure you all know, I am a big supporter of health reform in America, and firmly supported this now-passed, bill, despite its many flaws and seeming handouts to Big Insurance. To me, the argument has always been very simple: The United States is the only industrialized country in the world who (until yesterday) didn’t guarantee at least basic healthcare for its people. Add the fact that over 30 million of us have no insurance, and millions of others are under-insured, and it’s a no-brainer. We MUST, as a society, take concrete steps to alleviate the problem.

For the past few months I’ve been tracking the trajectory of the health care debate back at home. I’ve been reading articles on left and right-wing sites, watching video, and wasting countless hours perusing, lurking, and baiting people on the message boards. As I’m sure you all know, I am a big supporter of health reform in America, and firmly supported this now-passed, bill, despite its many flaws and seeming handouts to Big Insurance. To me, the argument has always been very simple: The United States is the only industrialized country in the world who (until yesterday) didn’t guarantee at least basic healthcare for its people. Add the fact that over 30 million of us have no insurance, and millions of others are under-insured, and it’s a no-brainer. We MUST, as a society, take concrete steps to alleviate the problem.

Barack Obama knew this, and ran on healthcare. It was a campaign promise, and guess what? He won. He was elected by a clear margin and given a mandate to make good on his promise. And that’s what he did. It took over a year of wrangling, wrestling, and staking his political future on it, but in the end the votes were there and the bill is now signed.

Congrats, Mr. President.

Of course we knew the opposition would be mighty, but I had no idea that it would get as angry and ugly as it has. We saw it last summer at the town hall meetings, where conservative demonstrators shouted down their Representatives and began making absurd claims about “communism,” “socialism,” and even “Naziism,” as if they had a clue as to the true meaning of any of those terms. The Tea Party movement picked up steam, fielding thousands of stirred-up activists who wanted nothing more to defeat healthcare, and Obama with it. They called it his “Waterloo,” though in the end, Obama was Wellington, rather than the diminutive Corsican who saw his dreams of conquest fade that day.

America is a split country, ideologically. It has been this way for some time, now. When Clinton was in power, he was hated deeply by the right, who went after him with everything they could. When Bush bumbled his way through the Presidency, running our country (and much of the world) into the ground, we on the left were beside ourselves. We loathed both the man and his policy and made no secret of our derision. But Obama? The opposition to him and his party has reached a new level. It’s different than what we’ve seen before. It’s ballistic. It’s rabid. It’s insane.

Since Sunday’s vote, ten Democratic members of Congress have received death threats. Bricks have been hurled through windows and family members’ homes have been vandalized. When walking to the vote on Sunday, Black Democratic Congressmen had the word “nigger” shouted at them, and (openly gay) Rep. Barney Frank was repeated called “fag.” I spend a lot of time reading the comment boards, and right wing poster after poster is calling for ARMED UPRISING against the government. Some welcome a COUP D’ETAT. There are pages after pages of commenters still insisting Obama was born in Kenya and/or that he’s a secret Muslim. These are mainstream beliefs among modern Republicans. There’s also a lot of talk about guns and “taking OUR country back.” We saw the wingnuts show up to the political gatherings carrying pistols and assault rifles. Since Obama has taken office, firearm sales have soared, despite the fact that he’s said or done nothing to restrict their sales. Sarah Palin – the teabagger pinup girl – posted a map of the US on her website, with Democratic Representatives from various states locked in on by rifle cross hairs, exhorting people to “Take a Stand!” Among many on the right, there is a sudden reverence for the original constitution and our “founding fathers,” with no mention of the fact that many of the latter were slave owners, and that the former denied both women and non-propertied men the right to vote, among other archaic restrictions. These same Constitution enthusiasts were strangely silent during Bush/Cheney’s 8-year assault on the very same document. The Patriot Act? Secret Detentions? Guantanamo Bay, anyone?

The GOP has allowed itself to become hijacked by the far right. By embracing the fringe elements of the Tea Party, they hoped to harness that raw energy to their benefit. Aided by lying blowhards like Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh, it worked for a while. The fear mongering incited the lynch mob and turned the polls in their favor. But they should be careful what they wish for, because they may have birthed Frankenstein’s monster. By fomenting such hatred, by going “all in” on health care and losing, the right is left with nothing but a bankruptcy of ideas, a surplus of hate, and a lot of really angry white people with guns. I fear it’s only a matter of time before one of these wingnuts makes good on his message board promise, and then we’ll really see the shit hit the fan.



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