Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Bigotry Haunts Obama’s Opposition

Former President Jimmy Carter said that U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson's you lie outburst to President Barack Obama during a speech to Congress was an act based on racism and rooted in fears of a black president: There is an inherent feeling among many in this country that an African-American should not be president.

The Georgia Democrat said the outburst was a part of a disturbing trend directed at the president that has included demonstrators equating Obama to Nazi leaders.

Carter continued by saying, Those kind of things are not just casual outcomes of a sincere debate on whether we should have a national program on health care, it's deeper than that.

The vitriolic criticism and racial overtones that were displayed at this summer’s congressional town hall meetings, on Fox News, on conservative radio talk shows, in a plethora of emails and some print media columns and articles; the racist placards and rhetoric displayed at recent tea party protest and other demonstrations, concerning healthcare reform are unacceptable. They embrace language that those on the left identify as, at its core, racism. The accusation of racism is specifically used by the left because it is inflammatory. Racism is the word that unfortunately garners the most attention.

The word racism falls within the meaning of a more inclusive word, bigotry. Bigotry means an obsessive and unreasonable, at times radical, partiality to one’s own group, religion, race, or politics, and a belligerent intolerance of those who differ with another’s worldview. The visceral demeanor and raucous language used, therefore, should be properly classified as bigotry and not racism, per se.

Bigots use inflammatory words, such as Nazi, Marxist, communist, fascist, and terrorist --- all words that have a more profound meaning than to simply label one as a socialist -- bombastically, derogatorily, and hyperbolically, to shout-down those who support President Obama and his administration’s policy and legislative initiatives. Intentionally using such words to intimidate, and create fear and hate. Bombast and bluster are employed because the intellectual capacity for authentic debate does not exist. It seems to be, in many ways, a tendency toward a reversion to McCarthyism.

Senator Joseph McCarthy, remembered for his demagogic crusade between 1950 and 1954 to root out alleged communists, was instrumental in damaging the careers of many honorable Americans. He was responsible for thousands of men and women to lose their jobs, suicide for some, for the deportation of hundreds, and for many who were sent to prison. He was responsible for creating an atmosphere of fear and hate that ended up with the execution of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, a punishment under more normal circumstances that was more fitting for treason than the lesser charge of espionage.

The McCarthyistic overt, in-your-face accusatory and confrontational behavior fervently riles up those on the right against President Obama. They become riled up without critically analyzing the facts. Politicians know that bigoted words will have no effect on those who can adequately read, write, and analyze, however they do affect those who are not so endowed. The media exploits the bigotry for ratings; politicians use it to acquire the fullest favor of their constituency: those who conduct thoughtful review, but also from those who only listen to the rhetoric. For the broadcast media racism seems to be an efficient word to use because of its narrow meaning, therefore, it does not need in-depth analysis, it makes ones ears perk up, and it is expedient for quick sound bite critique by the pundits.

Not all protestors in opposition to President Obama are bigots – racists, as some of those on the left claim them to be. It is also important to point out that bigotry exists over the entire political spectrum and in all human interaction, on the right as well as the left. Some in the media attempt at trying to determine to what extent it is driving the opposition to healthcare reform.

Now, we all can agree there is a certain level of racism that exists. We all can agree that there is a certain level of partiality to one’s own group, whether it is ones religion, ones ethnicity, or ones politics, and there does exists intolerance of those who differ. But to what degree? If it is significant or not, does it matter?

Former President Clinton was correct when he inferred that it did not matter. Those who are in opposition to President Obama most likely would be in opposition no matter what the skin color or ethnicity of a sitting President might be. However, what former President Clinton did not say was that the coloring of the language against a white president would not be the same. The language of a bigot creates much more hate and belligerent fervor.

To change the mind of a bigot would practically be impossible; those who are concerned with being just, to keep an open mind, and try honestly and critically to analyze and come to their own conclusion, will always simply do so; it’s all a matter of an individual’s character. The greater danger, if we let this sort of thing get out of hand and not keep it in check, as America did with Joe McCarthy, is a return to McCarthyism, a dangerous, damaging, and extreme form of bigotry.