This is what we have come to? This is our new political discourse? This is the way we protest now when we disagree, by bringing weapons within firing range of the President? And what happens when one man becomes twelve becomes fifty becomes five hundred? Are we really supposed to wait and, in the name of the Second Amendment and the fear of the NRA, allow this lunacy to build until, with all of the intensity and hatred and frenzy in the air that has been whipped up by the hatemongers on the right, one of these gun-toting loons does something irreversible?
Is this who we have become?
I do not think that it was all that long ago when it would have been unthinkable to anyone that an American would bring a weapon to a Presidential appearance. I'd say you'd have to go back...maybe nine months. Truly: would anyone on the left have even considered showing up at a Bush rally with a gun? And would anyone on the right have tolerated it if someone had? The Bushies didn't allow you to get anywhere near them if you disagreed with them, shunting you off into "free speech zones" and forcibly removing you from town halls. (Yes, back then, if you protested loudly at Bush town halls, you might find yourself under arrest.) Bring a loaded gun? I don't think so!
The man who began this gun nut protest was a New Hampshireman who, disgracing the state of my origin and simultaneously showing its independent and creative spirit (I'll give him that, anyway--once is creative), strapped that weapon to his leg and walked down the street in plain view of everyone with a t-shirt on which he referenced the Thomas Jefferson quote, "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants." the same quote that Timothy McVeigh wore on his shirt when they captured him after the Oklahoma City bombing. McVeigh's shirt also said "Sic Semper Tyrannis," a reference to the statement that John Wilkes Booth shouted as he fled from the scene after killing Abraham Lincoln.
What are we supposed to take from this? With the hate speech ratcheted up to unprecedented levels and protesters showing up at town halls carrying signs bluntly equating President Obama to Hitler (something that only months ago would have been seen as so over the top as to be almost unimaginable), and with dozens and dozens of hate sites springing up all over the web to allow people to vent the venom that right-wing talk show hosts like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck are fomenting in them, who exactly are we to assume the "tyrant" in the Jefferson allusion is?
The online hate groups spew their bile and swell in size. Earl Ofari Hutchinson, in a diary on Huffington Post, says that most are just delusional loonies. But there are indeed, he says, others.
The majority of the hate groups and the conspiracy spinning anti-Obama websites, however, spout hot air talk and are filled with the stock delusional conspiracy stuff about sinister forces taking over the government. Most vehemently deny that they advocate violence, but not all. Some openly scream about taking back the country and arming for an Armageddon type showdown with the government.
And the fact is that, as Hutchinson point out, old fashioned hate groups such as the KKK and the Aryan Nation are also in resurgence. Far from being a post-racial era, the start of the Obama Administration is becoming the Last Stand of American Racism.
The only questions remaining to be resolved involve how this is all going to play out. It is abundantly clear that a great deal of the unrest right now is the result of the racism remaining in much of America. It may be buried under code words like "socialism," but it is racism pure and simple. (When protesters claim that Obama is both a socialist and a fascist, you can't really accept that they are all that well schooled on political theory.) So there is a potentially benign way this could play out: like those who initially claimed that gay marriage would cause the sky to open and fire to rain down and swallow us all and chickens to lay poisonous eggs and disco to rise from its mirror-balled grave--I'm paraphrasing, but it was something like that--they could slowly but surely begin to realize that none of that bad stuff actually happened and just begin to fade away. We haven't won the war about gay marriage yet, but we're starting to pull ahead, and the other side is fading. This too may fade.
If the embers are not allowed to burn out gently, as they naturally do in all fires, but are instead artificially stoked by the continued lies of the right, fanning the flames, something might burn out of control. That too is the nature of fire. You can use it for heat or for cooking or just to look pretty, but it has a mind of its own. It will do as it will do. And if someone in one of those armed crowds gets it into his crazed head that there is a reason to pull a trigger, all hell will break loose, whether or not the President is involved. And if the demonizers on the right continue to pour gasoline on the fire, the chance that some crazed and demoralized loser will do something historically outrageous increases every day.
A year ago, it happened in a Unitarian church in Tennessee, as a man filled with righteous anger by the likes of Rush and Bill O'Reilly finally snapped and took two innocent lives. It happened in Pittsburgh, where a gunman (with many other issues, to be sure) expressed concern about the current administration taking away his guns. (Where did that idea come from?) It happened in Washington at the Holocaust Museum, where an angry 80-year-old, fueled by hatred and racism, killed a security guard. Despondent people, desperate people, angry people...people with guns.
And now these people, in numbers, are gathering where our President is speaking. The Last Stand of American Racism is coming. I pray that it does not go down with a bang, but with a whimper.