Saturday, April 18, 2009

Danger Signs

The tax day "tea parties" were easy to ridicule--as I did here. Organized by big lobbying firms and heavily promoted by Fox News and the largest media company in the world, they gathered "grass-roots" demonstrators protesting not only taxes but any of their right wing and lunatic fringe obsessions.

Rachel Maddow made a telling point in her coverage. She noted that tax day often brings out the lunatic fringe, but this time the Republican party embraced them and their causes--and their tone. I think you can go further and say the Republicans adopted their causes and their tone.

That tone is what really worries me. It was not only extreme but violent. Violently inflammatory images--of President Obama as Hitler, as Mao, and in various racist depictions--seemed to be common. President Obama was routinely called a socialist and a fascist--and not just by the rabble, but by Republican politicians and media. What fascists and socialists have in common certainly includes identification as a deadly enemy that Americans have taken arms and killed people to defend against.

Couple these inflammatory, emotionally charged images with another feature of these protests: they included those asserted not just their right to bear arms but their passionate love of guns, and their anger at the perceived threat from President Obama to take those guns away.

This is in a political climate where it is apparently impossible to suggest that assault weapons and automatic weapons that aren't meant to kill people--and in very rapid fashion, do kill people, in Pittsburgh, in Binghamton and elsewhere just in the past week or so--should be controlled.

Some argue whether these demonstrations were politically effective. They probably weren't. Because they were dangerous, and I don't hear this said enough. The Republican party and its media apparatus whipped up violent sentiments aimed at the President. They made common cause with people are may very well include the seriously deluded and unstable.

I watched some of President Obama's speech to delegates at the Latin America conference on Friday. He said what he has said in Europe, to Congress and the American people, on a bewildering range of issues in an amazingly short time: "I am not here to debate the past. I am here to deal with the future."

Despite whatever misgivings I may have about this policy or that decision, the more I see and hear him the more convinced I am of this: the future depends on Barack Obama. There is no one else with his intelligence, breadth, vision and ability to lead. There is no one else.

Those signs at those tea parties are danger signs. I don't know what else to do but pray for the Secret Service.

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