Today’s title is an elegant sentence written by Martin Amis in his book, Ronnie and the Pacemakers which was excerpted in the November 1988 edition of Esquire Magazine. Mr. Amis neatly sums up the polarization of American politics in the 1980’s. Of course, Mr. Reagan had been a polarizing figure for years. In 1961 he recorded his infamous rant for the American Medical Association attacking the socialized medicine program that would become Medicare. And Joan Baez and Jeffrey Shurtleff dedicated a song for the Governor of California, “Ronald Ray-guns” at Woodstock.
Having contempt for political figures is nothing new or even uniquely American. But there must be a line, somewhere, between the disdain or even benign revulsion one may have for members of the political class and the dangerous, barely controllable hatred that was on display this past weekend at the World War II Memorial in Washington D.C.
The speaker was Larry Klayman of Freedom Watch, an organization dedicated to someone’s freedom, just not necessarily yours or mine. A protest at the World War II Memorial that had been organized by a veterans’ group was hijacked by Senator Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin, and Mr. Klayman.
We are now ruled, quote unquote by a president who bows down to Allah… This president is not a president of we the people. He is a president of his people. He is to be the president of all of us…In the course of history there have been many who have used peaceful, non-violence to change history. I do not advocate violent revolution…I call upon all of you to wage a second American nonviolent revolution, to use civil disobedience, and to demand that this president leave town, to get up, to put the Quran down, to get up off his knees, and to figuratively come up with his hands out.
Forget the fact that the President is a self-proclaimed Christian who took more than a little grief thanks to the Pastor of the church he attended in Chicago. It isn’t relevant. When did Muslim become a slur? Read the above quote or if you can bear it, listen to him spew this rant by clicking on the link. He bows down to Allah? Substitute the religion of your choice. All belief systems other than the speaker’s would neatly fit in that space. We, Jews, Muslims, Atheists, Buddhists, etc.., are all OTHER. We aren’t real Americans. We can’t really lead this country, not Larry’s country. We’re not white enough. Not Christian enough.
I am not Barack Obama’s biggest fan. Yes, I worked on the 2008 campaign and I voted for him both times. So What? It is not like we had any great choices. But, he, like George Bush before him, is the President of the United States. And there is a line. And I’m not sure that I could define that line or tell you where it is. But much the way Justice Potter Stewart identified pornography, I know it when I see it.
And if you don’t call it out, if you stand idly by when you hear such talk, then you are complicit in the spread of this hatred. And you can’t be surprised when someone, uncontrolled by logic and unmoored of reason, takes this to its illogical extreme.