The Guy With the Gun

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

That's the guy with the gun, a gun which he said was loaded, outside the Obama town hall yesterday. That's the Jefferson quote you've heard before on his sign.

That's the same quote. The t-shirt belonged to Timothy McVeigh; if you look closely at the bottom right corner, you'll see that it's marked as government evidence.

Let's be honest. You and me. That dude is threatening to assassinate the President of the United States. And let's be honest again. If someone in fact, does attempt to assassinate the President of the United States, you'll be less surprised than you were when Michael Jackson died. In a country with our level of gun violence and our history of assassination attempts of our Presidents, that the response to this guy was not to take him away but instead to put him on with Chris Matthews is revealing.

Because in this century, we've moved people away from Presidents for less. Like, for example, the arrests at the Republican National Convention last year. Or 2004.

And there's a context here. And you all know there's a context here. There isn't someone so partisan he can't recognize the context here.

1. Obama's African-American. Maybe you've noticed. And Bernie Mac isn't his Vice-President. I don't know when I first heard a variation of the joke about who would have to be the first black president's VP in order to prevent assassination (Eddie Murphy talking about Jesse Jackson in '84?) but it became a stock comedic device. Wishing racism doesn't exist and isn't part of the subtext in the incredible fear of Obama doesn't make it so.

2. The War on Terror. We've established a framework, both "legal" and cultural, where the appropriate way to handle terrorists is extrajudicial. Be they suspects locked up without charge in Gitmo, Cheney's alleged assasination squads, or a thousand Toby Keith songs - there's broad belief that the morally appropriate post 9-11 response to terrorism is death. It didn't take long for the 2008 campaign rhetoric to focus on the Obama=terrorist equation. He was framed as a Muslim, he was framed as being created, perhaps in a Manchurian candidate type of way, to infiltrate the US government. Why doesn't he wear the flag pin? Why did he take the flag off his plane? Why doesn't he put his hand over his heart during the Star Spangled Banner? What about his minister? Why did his wife say that only now was she proud of America?

Doesn't his name sound a lot like Osama? And isn't his middle name Hussein? And what about the "terrorist fist jab" (maybe my all time favorite Fox News moment that's not when somehow it identifies Republicans caught in sex scandals as Democrats). The Vice-Presidential nominee for the Republicans said Obama "pals around with terrorists". The anger that existed in the crowds of the dying days of the McCain campaign focused not on health care reform - not on imaginary tax increases - it centered around John McCain not yelling out in a full throated way what a certain percentage of Americans, fueled by talk radio and Fox news and absolutely no ability to separate facts from fantasy knew to be true, that the United States was about to elect a terrorist President.

And why would no one stop it?

That madness has been funneled into the "birther" movement, you can go here to see yesterday's polls revealing the astonishing percentage of conservatives in Virginia and North Carolina who believe that Obama was not born in the United States. The Carolina poll also revealed that 12% of the Republicans who responded don't believe that Hawaii is in the United States (I'd guess a healthy number of them are big, big fans of Simple Jack.) What would be great, in the coverage of the town hall protests, are questions of the protesters along those lines - how many of the people screaming about death panels (I'm getting ahead of myself) or (bizarrely) waving the Bible in protest of universal health care - would also fall into these previous categories? The appropriate way to view someone who thinks Obama is a secret Muslim terrorist from Kenya (or un-American Hawaii) who hates the flag and wants to kill babies with down's syndrome is as a kook. Even if there are lots of them, co-ordinated by the corporate interests who have fought health care reform for 15 years - pumping in hundreds of millions of dollars to keep even a watered down bill from passing - they're still kooks.

I just finished teaching the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and it's hard to express to students that federal laws prohibiting racial discrimination by business were enormously controversial, that they sparked protest - that they drove the southern Democrats to switch political parties (and become the backbone of the modern day Republicans, the reason why the south is politically awash in red for the past 40 years, why we've gotten to this place in our history where people think Obama must be a secret terrorist). But really they just have to watch the news today. If the Civil Rights Act of 2009 came up for a vote - with exactly the same language that passed 45 years ago, what would be the reaction?

My money says this - right wing talk radio and Fox News (and Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin) would say it was a plan to give black people your business. "This bill will establish Obama/Acorn style affirmative action panels where your business can be seized by the federal government if you don't employ a sufficient percentage (except they'd use the word quota) of blacks or women or Hispanics. The appointment of Justice Sotomayor is a way to get the Supreme Court to go along. If you don't have enough blacks in management, your business will be foreclosed and it will be turned over to "the community". Vote no on the Civil Rights Act of It's a Nazi Bill! Read your Bible!"

3. The Nazi stuff. After the Bush bailout in September I wrote (wrongly) that the best thing here was the Republican canard that Democrats (who would be viewed as a center-right party in the rest of the industrialized world) were somehow radical Socialists would be dead. Instead, of course, that's all you've heard ever since. The stimulus package (that, despite being too small saved us from the Great Depression) the non-existent tax increases on the middle class, and now a non-single payer health care system, a system that leaves intact insurance companies (talk about death panels) are not only evidence of Obama being a socialist - but also a communist - and (demonstrating a real lack of understanding about the differing totalitarian systems in the early 20th century) a Nazi.

Virtually every other industrialized nation has universal health care.

Are they all Nazis?

Has Western Europe been overrun with Nazis? Why is Simple Jack not covering this?

If killing Obama Bin Lyin'...oops, I mean Osama Bin Laden, what an easy mistake that is, to confuse the first African-american president with a mass murderer of 3000 Americans, is the "moral" thing to do - then what about Hitler?

A stock "what would you do" ethical dilemma as long as I can recall has been "you travel back in time, you meet Hitler when he's still a painter, should you kill him?"

There is no equation more firmly implanted in the western pysche than Nazi=evil. Not criminal. Evil.

The difference is not semantic. The appropriate response to a criminal is what - legal means of prosecution, conviction, and punishment.

The appropriate response to evil is to eliminate it. That's why Bush didn't call Iraq/Iran/North Korea that Axis of Criminals. That's why the war on terror wasnt framed as "Good vs. Criminals."

And that's why Sarah Palin, last week, called Obama's healthcare plan "downright evil."

The Nazi talk has been ratched up since inauguration day, the level of violent rhetoric by the right, where Obama is compared to Hitler, or where (as Simple Jack did) Obama is said to "hate white people" just continues to crank and crank and crank.

And yesterday, a guy with a loaded gun and a sign that is not so subtle code within the extremist community stood outside Obama's town hall.

And that's where we are in the summer of 2009.

The Vice-Presidential nominee from last year said Obama is going to establish death panels that might kill the elderly or disabled children. The former speaker of the House said he agreed with her. As did Simple Jack.

A secret Muslim terrorist sympathizing communist Nazi who is going to kill the elderly.

That's the President of the United States.

And what is the morally appropriate way to deal with him?

What was the morally appropriate way the right wing extremists dealt with Tiller the Baby Killer?

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