Welcome to a little exhibit I'm curating. I call it Art by Nuts.
During this age of the Great Conservative Freakout -- after the nation has elected its first African-American president amid a historic economic meltdown and as Congress attempts reform of the nation's broken health-care system -- my exhibit covers some of the "popular" political art found in right-wing crevasses and cubby holes all across the Internet.
Vilifying our political opponents is an American tradition of long standing. Ask Alexander Hamilton, who got himself shot dead in a duel with Aaron Burr. Or Abraham Lincoln, gunned down by a Confederate sympathizer at the end of a four-year national bloodletting.
Thing is, we're not even the worst of the world's political animals. Ask your average Iraqi . . . between suicide bombings.
But we are fallen humans, predisposed to bad behavior. We also are masters, coming from tens of thousands of years of practice, at trumping up reasons to justify our bad behavior.
AND JUDGING by the reasons the American right is manufacturing at present -- reasons based on who conservatives presume President Obama to be as opposed to any real grievances they might have, being that the man scarcely has had time to "wrong" them yet -- I shudder to think of what bad behavior some unhinged zealots might find themselves capable.
Let me just put it out there: Given the extreme rhetoric being pumped out by the demagogic likes of Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, the health-insurance
Zealots and nuts are always looking for self-righteous excuses to act badly, and any number of people on the American right are dishing them out by the bushel.
See the yahoo to the left. He's outside an Obama town hall meeting in New Hampshire -- packing heat and carrying a sign referencing a Thomas Jefferson's quote from 1787:
And what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to the facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure."THE PISTOL-PACKIN' PROTESTER downloaded his sign, advertised as a "Tea Party Poster," from Restore the Republic.com. Nice . . . "I'm pissed about taxes, we elected a black guy president . . . let's throw a revolution!"
I wonder what Jefferson would have thought of the Civil War.
From 1861 to 1865, the tree of liberty got a good drenching from the blood of 620,000 Union and Confederate dead. Note that the Gatling gun wasn't invented until 1861 and saw only extremely limited use by the Union army in that conflict. Now we have tanks, roadside bombs, anthrax and ordinary "citizens" legally packing around their own miniaturized, high-tech "Gatling guns."
I bet if we tried nowadays, we could water a whole damned "Liberty forest."
All over higher taxes on the rich and "socialized medicine."
What we have here is not a failure to communicate, as Strother Martin famously said and some now suggest, but instead a significant segment of American conservatism communicating quite clearly that it has lost its f***ing mind.
All this over a Democrat president of color who scarcely has had enough time in office to good and piss them off. As I said, I shudder to think what some Rush Limbaugh fanatic or World Net Daily whack job might try when they are good and pissed off.
I shudder because the unhinged right has been anything but coy. Look at my gallery of political "art." Look at the picture of the well-armed New Hampshire protester.
LOOK AT THIS Associated Press story today about the kinds of conservative nuts drawn to an Obama speech in Phoenix:
About a dozen people carrying guns, including one with a military-style rifle, milled among protesters outside the convention center where President Barack Obama was giving a speech Monday — the latest incident in which protesters have openly displayed firearms near the president.I CAN IMAGINE that more than a couple of these whack jobs of the überright, with no sense of irony, count among their carefully nurtured grievances the fact that the president is an "apostle of the culture of death." In other words, he's an active supporter of legalized abortion.
Gun-rights advocates say they're exercising their constitutional right to bear arms and protest, while those who argue for more gun control say it could be a disaster waiting to happen.
Phoenix police said the gun-toters at Monday's event, including the man carrying an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle slung over his shoulder, didn't need permits. No crimes were committed, and no one was arrested.
The man with the rifle declined to be identified but told The Arizona Republic that he was carrying the assault weapon because he could. "In Arizona, I still have some freedoms," he said.
Phoenix police Detective J. Oliver, who monitored the man at the downtown protest, said police also wanted to make sure no one decided to harm him.
"Just by his presence and people seeing the rifle and people knowing the president was in town, it sparked a lot of emotions," Oliver said. "We were keeping peace on both ends."
Fred Solop, a Northern Arizona University political scientist, said the incidents in New Hampshire and Arizona could signal the beginning of a disturbing trend.
"When you start to bring guns to political rallies, it does layer on another level of concern and significance," Solop said. "It actually becomes quite scary for many people. It creates a chilling effect in the ability of our society to carry on honest communication."
He said he's never heard of someone bringing an assault weapon near a presidential event. "The larger the gun, the more menacing the situation," he said.
But what they fail to understand is they already have dehumanized -- in their hearts, in their minds and in their rhetoric -- the already-born Barack Obama just as much as the most ardent Planned Parenthood activist has dehumanized the tiniest human embryo.
To them, the president -- or all "liberals," for that matter -- aren't fellow human beings, much less fellow Americans or their figurative brothers and sisters. (Brothers and sisters? That's crazy commerniss talk!) They are "socialists" and "communists."
And we all remember from the Cold War days what we do with communists and socialists, don't we?
It's the stuff of vile dehumanization and objectification. It's just like an abortionist calling a fetus the "products of conception," because it's a lot easier to take a human life if you can plausibly deny its humanity.
ALREADY, too many conservative critics of the president have murdered him in their hearts and with their words. I think Jesus, Whom many of these folk claim to follow, may have had something to say about their tactics:
21THE CHOICE LIES with conservatives during this uneasy stretch of American history.
"You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, 'You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.'
But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, 'Raqa,' will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, 'You fool,' will be liable to fiery Gehenna.
Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you,
leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court with him. Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge, and the judge will hand you over to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison.
Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.
"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.'
But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna.
And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body go into Gehenna.
They can stop the madness and withdraw from the abyss. Or, some particularly unbalanced few of them might decide to move from "murder in the heart" to something a bit more bold.
In that horrifying event, chances are we'll all find ourselves amid the hottest flames of Gehenna.