Post-Paris, right-wing fear and paranoia has engulfed the United States, but Barack Obama has so far proven himself to be the only adult in the room
Leaving the gym two nights ago, I decided to get some “to do list” matters done so I quickly ran by the drugstore, the grocery store and Walmart.
To my surprise, the moment I walked through the front doors of each store I was welcomed by enormous displays of Depends – Extra Protection Depends. And each of those displays was surrounded by people almost fighting with each other for packages of Extra Protection Depends with which to fill their with shopping carts. Had I missed Black Friday?
Curious, I asked a Walmart employee if she knew why there was a sudden run, so to speak, on Depends. She asked me if I had not heard the news. I had not. “The Muslims are coming!” she said, “The Muslims are coming!”
Thinking that perhaps I had missed the news of a little gaggle of terrorists hijacking a cruise ship and sailing it into Charleston Harbor, I asked her if Charleston was, indeed, where they were coming from.
She said, “Oh, no. I think they’re still somewhere over in Europe. But Governor Haley says they’re coming here!”
“Governor Haley says they’re coming here?” I replied.
“Oh, yeah! But she says she’s not going to allow a single one of them into South Carolina. Not even one.”
I immediately visualized Nikki on the beach at Sullivan’s Island. She would have been wearing heathered camo and brandishing her personalized AR-15 as she vigilantly scanned the horizon for torn-up rafts filled with ragged, tired, hungry, thirsty, scared-to-death collections of non-white mamas, daddies, children, widows and orphans. She would have already asked her security detail how much recoil she should expect when she fired her rifle. She would have already made certain the photographers were placed so as to catch her profile in the right light.
There would have been nothing left to do except pray that such a raft showed up. After all, she wants to be vice-president on someone’s ticket, anybody’s ticket, and nothing could illustrate her conservative chops better than a video showing her “protecting the homeland” by turning away from the South Carolina shore, at gunpoint, a battered raft of battered Syrian refugees.
Ah, Conservative Terror.
Nothing ramps up the sale of Xanax and personal items such as Depends – Extra Protection – quite like GOP bed-wetters in the Deep South who have a bad case of Conservative Terror.
And, with the issue of Hispanic immigrants now on the back burner, nothing in the Deep South evokes Conservative Terror quite like the idea that “The Muslims are coming!”
President Barack Hussein Obama, as many down here reference him, was out of the country attending the G-20 summit when ISIS began this chapter of Conservative Terror by directing its horrific apocalyptic pathology at the citizens of Paris. Which meant he didn’t have a front row seat from which to view the carnival of crazy – the conservative id in 4-D – that spontaneously erupted in the ranks of GOP candidates from the national to the town council level.
It constituted a textbook example of how to manipulate general anxiety to specific fear and then demagogue that fear, and its consequent anger (fear and anger being inseparable), such that masses of people gave both vocal and silent assent to proposed actions that, prior to that moment, would have been repulsive to them.
One Republican official opined that Muslims, U.S. citizens as well as those here via visas, should be “rounded up by the National Guard and deported.” Rep. Keith Ellison, a Democratic congressman from Minnesota who also happens to be Muslim, thought that to be a bit much.
A fair-sized group of Republican congressmen agreed with Rhode Island state senator Elaine Morgan (R), who raised the specter of placing Muslims in “internment camps.” Because, of course, it worked out so well for us when we placed Japanese-Americans in internment camps during WWII.
Ms. Morgan also took the time to provide the country with a brief synopsis of Islam: “The Muslim religion and philosophy is to murder, rape, and decapitate anyone who is a non-Muslim.” One guesses this gal is neither a Vassar grad nor a Mensa candidate.
Some Republicans raised the possibility of closing mosques. Donald Trump not only put his special imprimatur on that idea, but was also supportive of “warrantless searches” of Muslims, “special I.D. cards” that Muslims would have to keep in their possession at all times and a “national database” for tracking the movements of Muslims. Civil liberties, as history indicates, are often the first victim of Conservative Terror.
The GOP commentary only got worse when the freedom-loving members of the American Right trained their sights on the 10,000 Syrian refugees that the United States has agreed to accept into the country. An embarrassing pittance given the number of Syrian refugees taken in by countries of far less means.
GOP governors such as Nikki – my bad, Governor Nikki Haley of South Carolina – (along with one Democrat) rose to the occasion by pronouncing that they “would not allow Muslim refugees to settle in their states.” Reminded that they had no constitutional power to prevent the settlement of anyone within their statutory boundaries, their general response was “We can make life so miserable for them that they won’t want to stay.”
Incredibly, Mike Pence, Republican governor of Indiana, did exactly that. Though he could not disallow a Syrian refugee family of three (dad, mom and five year-old) from being settled in Indiana (after three years of waiting) by the Exodus Refugee Immigration group in Indianapolis, he directed the head of the state’s Division of Family Resources to suggest to the president of ERI that the family be settled elsewhere. It would be better for them, he said, because Indiana was going to refuse to provide any services or resources to the family.
Fortunately, Democratic governor Dannell Malloy reached out to the family and invited them with “open arms” to settle in Connecticut. Which is where they were quickly relocated.
Even Mike Huckabee, who gave up preaching – at least from a church pulpit – because it didn’t pay off quite like a never-ending career of hopelessly running for the presidency, chimed in, saying that “If I were still governor of Arkansas,” yada, yada, yada. I reckon The Huckster missed all those references to caring for “strangers and sojourners” that show up in that Bible he brandishes like a six-shooter.
Several of the candidates; Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz et al, did entertain the possibility of admitting “Christian” refugees from Syria. But nada to the Muslims. There was no word as to whether Sikhs or Jews or Buddhists or Taoists might be allowed through the gates, this apparently being a Christian v. Muslim thing.
Chris Christie, exhibiting his soft side, said he would have no problem turning away “three year old orphans”—one supposes he doesn’t recognize the name or remember the pictures of Aylan Kurdi. Ben Carson put his ample xenophobic side on display by equating Syrian refugees to “rabid dogs” and asking “Who would let a rabid dog into his house?” His campaign quickly and successfully turned his disgusting remarks into a major fund-raising effort.
Finally, of course, the ginned up landscape of fear and anger provided a playing field upon which Republican presidential hopefuls could compete for the title of “Highest Testosterone Level.” The predictable result of which were the usual prescriptive statements of “bombing the shit out of them” and/or “bombing them back into the Stone Age.” One guesses these folks forgot that the terrorists were in Paris, whose citizens would probably not appreciate American F-16’s dropping ordinance along the Champs-Elysées.
It didn’t stop there.
Right-wing politicians, always ready to put boots on the feet of other people’s children, parents and spouses and send them off to fight another questionable war, did not disappoint. They only differed in the numbers they wanted to send. While I only wanted to know where they were going to send them. Paris? Brussels? Iraq? Syria? Libya? Egypt? Yemen? Nigeria?
Suffice it to say that they had zero specifics to offer about any of their proposed testosterone-laced actions. It was all talk, all rhetoric.
President Obama responded by framing the Paris attacks in their proper perspective, which should be the job of any American president. And he closed by chiding Republicans for their fear-mongering, asking that, for once, they behave like Americans and not like Republicans.
Cerebral, as he is prone to be, he was criticized by Republicans and the mainstream media for not being more viscerally-involved; i.e., for not being panicky and not angrily talking about bombing the Champs-Elysées and not immediately deploying my son to wherever the GOP decides they want to uselessly put more American boots in-the-ground. One supposes they would have been happier had he needed his Secret Service detail to find a local shop that sold Depends.
In the last ten days or so, the Republican Party showed itself to be unworthy of the mantle of leadership. It is a cabal of carnival barkers and visceral adolescents who mock the very values to which, at its best, this country aspires.
Whereas, despite the commentary of the GOP and the mainstream media, Barack Obama showed himself to be the only adult in the room.