Thursday, March 25, 2010

"FREEDOM"

In 1968 I ran for sheriff of Johnson County, Iowa, on the Peace and Freedom ticket. As soon as the campaign began I got death threats. In the mail and over the phone.

The ones in the mail always had a gun site (or as poet and friend Tom Rawroth pointed out to me: gunsight) on them and a cartoon figure that was supposed to be me in the sites. There were messages warning me that the insurance salesman who came to my door and pulled out a fountain pen for me to sign a document might be one of "them" using a poison pen that would mean my demise.

Or that the next time I got in my van (I owned a used telephone van at the time) and turned it on—kapooey. It was scary stuff for my then wife (God rest her soul) and mother of our baby daughter.

After the campaign I took the advice of some of my more experienced leftist friends and tried to avoid being in the newspaper as much as possible while still fighting for what I believed to be a better and more representative government and country.

One of the ironies of that time was that me and several of my leftie friends were pretty sure that the group behind a lot of these threats were members of "Young Americans for Freedom"—part of the irony being that these young so-called "conservatives" were anything but "for freedom"—they wanted war protestors jailed, marijuana smokers jailed, hippies jailed for espousing "free love" and so on endlessly.

They called themselves "conservatives" but like many who call themselves that today they were anything but. They were not into conserving the environment, the wilderness and wildlife this country contained when they were born, let alone for generations beforehand, they weren't into conserving many of the traditions based on the Constitution and the papers and actions of The Founding Fathers. What they were into was a visceral hatred for people not like them.

Some of it was racism, some of it was anti-immigrant, some of it was even anti-Catholic, some of it was anti-intellectual, some of it was anti-youth, AND THEY WERE SUPPOSEDLY "YOUNG AMERICANS FOR FREEDOM"!

No, they were reactionary old-before-their-time haters. I saw them throw rocks at peaceful anti-war protestors. I saw some of them spit on and attack citizens demonstrating for Civil Rights for African-Americans. I saw some of them organize and egg on so-called "hardhats"—reactionary construction workers—who these young organizers and their leaders convinced of nefarious plots and conspiracies to eliminate white people and Christians from any kind of political power or even input and replace them with "blacks" and "socialists" and "communists" and "anti-Americans."

But of course it was the so-called "young Americans for freedom" who were anti-American, just as their John Birch elders were and are and just as the KKK and the Know Nothings and all the rightwing movements throughout the history of this country have been. Because their motivation, for the most part, was and is always hatred for those who legitimately and democratically vote for change that will lessen the power of the group they identify with or have been propagandized into identifying with.

I thought of all this when I saw the news that Sarah Palin put on her Facebook page a map of the USA marked with gun sites for every Congressional seat held by a Democrat in what once was a Republican district. And then heard the not unexpected statistic of the 40% rise in rightwing hate groups since Obama was elected. The haters have always been with us, but they have rarely been given the legitimacy that the media has given them in recent times.

Hopefully the rumor that Rupert Murdoch's news enterprises are rapidly losing money meaning the eminent demise of his rightwing propaganda empire is true. Not that there aren't plenty of wealthy profiteers whose fortunes depend on the de-regulation fervor and protectionist policies for their corporate interests to take his place. But it would be a gas to see Fox News fail.

In fact, it would feel like freedom. Here's a little tribute montage from John Stewart on the Mad Hatters, er Tea Partyers that might give you a laugh.

9 comments:

harryn said...

sooner or later the appalachia-type folks, the hillbillies, rednecks, cowboys, and back-woods-men [and their womans] had to get the spotlight ...
Bush's down-home, dead or alive, straw chewing posture opened the door for it ...

and in spite of the despicable behavior spawned by the republican guard and sensationalized by the media for the world to see what it is to be truly american - it's entertainment - not to mention educational for the generation of newbees to learn what is acceptable behavior ...

the only good coming from all this clamor is the profound respect Obama is receiving internationally for accomplishing some hard won victories in spite of this maladjusted segment of population ...

Anonymous said...

I voted for you...
suzanne

Anonymous said...

Dear M:
That is one of the central ironies, isn't it?---these self-styled "patriots" who are in reality so profoundly anti-American. That's one of the reasons that they have to go back and re-write history (as in the Texas text book scandal) so as to try to make America somehow square with their deeply anti-American bigotry. It's the same way so many religious crazies and fundamentalists twist the core message of Jesus (Sermon on the Mount; turning the other cheek; forgiveness; giving up material wealth, etc.) into its opposite, making something that is, yes, radically socialist and egalitarian into an excuse for homophobia, racism, predatory capitalism, etc.
TPW

Robert G. Zuckerman said...

After 9/11 when the big thing was to put an American flag on your car, I remember being behind one car emblazoned with flags and some "patriotic" decal, only to see a lit cigarette but tossed out the window by the driver - mindless and uncaring anywhere, but especially in Southern Califoria in wildfire season. The people who claim to be conservative and patriotic "real americans" are anything but. They don't care about this country or its people or values. It's all about hate for hate's sake.

Lally said...

Thanks for the comments, and thanks Suzanne for the vote!

Robert G. Zuckerman said...

Michael, The Tea Partiers, Sarah Palin, John Baynard, your friend Jim - I don't find any of them funny in the least. They are dangerous, hateful, wreckless and irresponsible. So called "Right to Lifers" who murder for their beliefs? "Targeting" Democrats, "Armageddon" - why, because we want all Americans (including them as well as the poor and the disabled) to have health care? John Stewart is clever, but what he's looking at is really scary and sad.

Lally said...

True Robert, it's not a funny situation or attempt to undermine the foundations of our democracy with a refusal to accept anyone other than their choices as representative of "real Americans" etc. But a little gallows humor is still helpful from my perspective, and ridicule can sometimes do more to open peoples' eyes about the lies they're being fed than a lecture (though I try to avoid ridicule myself—and lecturing, hopefully realtively successfully).

Robert G. Zuckerman said...

I agree Michael. I just hope we're not headed for another Oklahoma City or the like, and that these fanatics will do themselves in, especially at the polls. On another note, not unrelated, I just came across my copy of "March 18, 2003" and also some pictures of a 2004 reading you did at Beyond Baroque.

Robert G. Zuckerman said...

Republicans and Righties remind me of those people in L.A. who drive the new Benzes, Hummers, etc that think red lights, disabled spaces and traffic laws don't apply to them. Check this out:


http://my.earthlink.net/article/pol?guid=20100326/686e52f0-e069-4c96-be33-302e1f5160ae