Psychology itself has never interested me, but I’ve always found it interesting how easily people can transition from criticizing behavior, to behaving exactly that same way, without the slightest awareness of hypocrisy, contradiction, and dishonesty.
One of the more infuriating things that liberals had to deal with during the middle years of the Bush administration was having opposition to the invasion and occupation of Iraq equated with hating America. Which, in the latter years of Bush and early years of Obama, the terrorism boogeyman was substituted for Iraq and fervent support of civil liberties and many of the core and defining principles of America.
One former United Nations weapons inspector, perhaps it was Scott Ritter before the campaign to destroy him personally was in full swing, was greeted on I think it was CNN one morning with the following question: “Why do you hate America?”
That didn’t happen on FOX News, and it wasn’t from a hard core partisan hosting a 9PM opinion show. That amazingly disrespectful, biased, and asinine question came from a morning news anchor on a respected mainstream network that by all rights should have been fired before the end of the business day. But that kind of charged rhetoric and closed minded, bully approach to dealing with serious political issues had already become commonplace.
Once violence in occupied Iraq had reached a point where the New York Times made the controversial decision to refer to the conflict as a civil war, and many Americans turned against the war and occupation that had previously supported it, that rhetoric shifted focus to the “Surge”. Instead of asking people with legitimate complaints and policy disagreements why they hated their own country, it turned to “why do you hate the troops?”, and “why do you want the terrorists to win?”.
Forget that there never really were, and still aren’t, many terrorists in Iraq, and that the war was unjustified. The rank dishonesty of these “questions” should render discussing this ugly chapter in public discourse unnecessary.
Yet even after the public turned against the war and the surge, with the Bush administration and its cadre of neo-conservatives largely out of power and firmly in the rear-view mirror (but not gone — they are still agitating for another glorious war in the pages of the Washington Post, New York Times, and on FOX News, this time against Iran), very little has changed. With Mitt Romney’s campaign sinking further into the mud by the day, Romney himself, his campaign, and pundits on the right have continued this sordid behavior without missing a beat.
And while Mitt Romney is only soft-peddling this garbage, it’s only because he’s a coward and an empty shell of a human being that he’s only questioned whether or not Barack Obama loves America, rather than simply stating as a fact that he actively hates it.
It’s because of what’s already happened over the past decade that I reject the notion that questioning Obama’s love for country is about his race. That’s giving these people far too much credit. In order for this attack to be racist, the people using it must first believe that it’s something new and worth doing, because they think it will work, because Barack Obama is black. While that makes them racist, it also makes them calculating, and makes this attack some part of a coherent strategy for winning the election. That’s more Southern Strategy, less racial fear mongering and engendering racial resentment and hatred.
There is a racist undercurrent subtly affecting this election, in the form of attempts to depict Obama as something foreign, and different. He’s “that one”, as John McCain said in 2008. But the stupidity that’s infected the Romney campaign, and that has been amplified by the uglier gutters of the right-wing media, runs much deeper. It’s this pathology where everything is immediately taken to the worst possible conclusion, based on an extremist all-or-nothing, childish and authoritarian with-me-or-against me mentality. But it’s worse than that. Simple disagreement, the “against me” part, doesn’t cut it anymore. Just like opposing the war meant you hated America, and opposing the surge meant you hated the troops, and now, expecting our government to uphold the letter of the Constitution and the spirit of the principles that created it (not ignoring legal prohibitions against torture just because you think terrorists deserve to be tortured), opposing what person X believes now means you’re the very worst thing in the world.
Hitler, of course, used to be the go-to ultimate evil in this vicious little game. Equating legitimate and widely held political dissent with a genocidal manic — amazingly — leaves at least some room for debate. Hitler did a lot of things other than the Holocaust that were awful, inexcusable, and yet perfectly acceptable to a lot of people even in modern times. Especially after 9/11. Unfounded hatred and fear of Muslims and Islam has lead some people (Pam Geller comes to mind) to openly cheer for a genocide of Muslims. A few degrees of separation will get you the Michele Malkins of the world, a Japanese American who has no problem with (and advocates for the creation of) internment camps for American Muslims.
In Germany, they called them concentration camps. Today, the far right calls them a good start.
A few more degrees will get you someone like Republican Congressmen Peter King, who has held at least one hearing in the House of Representatives on the menacing threat of Muslims and Islam that bear a strong resemblance to Joe McCarthy’s House Un-American Activities Committees that sought out communists, but usually just ended up fucking up the lives of law abiding Americans. He plans to hold more next year.
The more demented one gets, the further they must go when demonizing people they disagree with, in order to raise democratic dissent from a crime against The Party, to a crime against the state, to a crime against America (usually meaning God), and eventually humanity. That’s what conservative supporters of the invasion of Iraq did to liberals, what a lot of people of varying ideologies have done to their fellow Americans over terrorism, what many status quo liberals are doing to progressive liberals over Obama’s embrace of the police state, drone wars, and government secrecy, and what Mitt Romney, in his own pathetic, ineffectual and impotent way, is trying to do to Barack Obama. The only difference between what Mitt Romney is doing, and all the things I’ve described above, is that Mitt Romney is such a pitiful empty suit that he can’t even be a divisive racist asshole effectively.
What’s interesting about that is how easily so many of the “why do you hate America” crowd can effortlessly turn around and blame America for being fully of stupid, lazy, selfish, biased idiots, suffering from terrible mental afflictions keeping them from seeing Good Facts and The Truth which would naturally lead them into the open arms of the GOP, as a way of explaining why Barack Obama seems set to win reelection next month. This is because so many other excuses have fallen flat. As Chris Christie said, and I believe he’s mostly right, blaming the media for holding you down isn’t a valid excuse for losing. It’s simply what you do when you’re losing and is the surest sign of failure. The recent infantile spat of conservatives attacking all polls as biased and skewed — even those from FOX News — is just the next logical step. If you can’t blame the media, or polls, and you won’t take responsibility yourself, there’s really nothing else to do but blame America for your problems.
So it’s really something to behold, when we’ve seen so many retarded, 5th grade attacks on Obama over the past four years (he apologizes to everyone on behalf of America, he blames America for everything, he doesn’t love America, no wait, he hates America, the country and economy is in the gutter because of Obama and we want things to be the way they were, but wait, you hate America if you dare say that America isn’t great/awesome/the bestest in the worldsy) that the final stop on this crazy train is to insult, attack, and blame Americans for not being smart enough, go-getter enough, tax hating enough, built that that shit, yo! enough, to pick the person, campaign, and ideology launching all these dead-ender attacks to run the country. And that’s coming from the side that says no, really, it’s Obama that hates America.
We’ve gone from: “You oppose the war? Then you hate America“, to “Americans really are a bunch of dumb, entitled, government addicted, welfare loving lazy fucks“ because the person and ideology saying all of that is now losing.
Perhaps when November 7th comes, and Mitt Romney personally adds to the high unemployment rate he keeps pretending to care about while saying things like I like to fire people, a valuable and critical lesson will have been opened like a book, and laid carefully before the why do you hate America/America is fucking dumb crowd to learn. It shouldn’t be necessary to explain it to them, even though it will be. Herein lies the problem: we can explain it to them, but we can’t understand it for them.
If they don’t understand why this bullshit is wrong and destructive, then maybe they just don’t get America. But that’s OK. At least for the time being, this crowd hasn’t graduated from disagreeing with me means you hate your own country to I’m sorry but I have to kill you now. But I bet my bottom dollar that if you talk to any good historian, they’d tell you that that’s how it always begins.