My good friend Bill Lannigan stopped by last night and we talked about what's going on in our lives and the world at large. One of the things he shared was that he'd been listening to an ABC talk show on his car radio and had heard a very sincere veteran of the first Iraq war, whose father and grandfather had served honorably in combat in previous wars, and who had children and was worried for them because the country seemed in trouble and he believed, as a rightwing radio listener, that it was the fault of President Obama, and asked the radio talk show host why, why would our president do things that are "ruining" the country (according to those on the rightwing talk radio and Fox TV News he's listening to and watching).
And my friend Bill said he felt a deep stillness in his heart when the radio host gave his answer, in a sincere salesman like conversational tone. He told this well meaning, concerned, and obviously—to Bill—decent sounding citizen that the reason Obama was ruining the country was because Obama believes that "America is bad" and therefore, naturally, wants to destroy it and create something entirely different.
My heart sunk as well when Bill relayed what he'd heard. Not because I don't know this is the lie the rightwing media machine has been propagating, but because so many goodhearted people are taken in by it. (And of course the main fear for people like Bill and I who remember the assassinations of President Kennedy and Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy and more, is that someone listening to this show might not be as stable as the veteran asking the question sounded like he was.)
They yearn for a return to the country they think they knew as children (I get emails circulating myths about how wonderful the 1950s were almost every day, with no sign in them of any recognition of how repressed and oppressive those days really were for many, I would say most, "Americans") (or for younger folks the nostalgia is for the days of Reagan, forgetting all that was so negative and destructive about life under his administration and some of the terrible changes it wrought that we are still dealing with the consequences of).
They also yearn for a simple explanation for why what they think of as "their" country (rather than all of ours) has ended up threatened by drug wars on our Southern border and religious fanatics and ideological terrorists within and without our borders, and had an economic collapse and thus is deep in debt, and got stuck fighting two wars that contributed mostly to that debt and seem to have no easy and obvious definition of victory, etc.
I understand that yearning, and I even understand why either self-deluded or unscrupulous people would take advantage of it to supply scapegoats (Obama-Pelosi-Ried-Democrats-et. al.) and an easy if untrue explanation (like the rightwing radio host Bill heard) rather than deal with the nuanced complexities of the realities we are faced with.
It's like a woman friend of mine told me when I had gotten into a heated argument with a woman I had been seeing, she said it was pointless to try and argue the logic or truth of what the woman was yelling about because it was obvious by her emotional state that it wasn't whether what she was saying was logical or even factual, it was about the emotions that were being expressed.
The same with much of the right and the Tea Party I believe. Otherwise everything they say and do would be preposterously hypocritical. How can you say you're for a more moral country and then back candidates who circulate racist and obscene emails (Paladino), or that you're for fiscal responsibility and back candidates who have a track record of fiscal irresponsibility (O'Donnell among many others), or you're for independence from government and against anyone who takes federal money when you (Joe Miller) have been taking that for decades, etc.
But it's the same problem with all those Western states that depend inordinately on federal largess for almost everything who scream the loudest about big government being bad and wanting to reduce it to a small enough size to be able to "drown it in a bathtub" as one rightwing leader famously put it.
Because it's not about the facts of any argument, as has been proven over and over again just from the rightwing parroting comments on this blog, it is about the feelings of people who are obviously frightened much more by the changes in our world than those they attack are (in recent neurological studies, brain patterns show self-identified "conservatives" reacting with fear to much more than self-identified "liberals" and to entirely different things).
Hopefully fear and cynicism (another version of fear) will not win on election day. But obviously very few are counting on that.