Thursday, September 6, 2012

the politics of hate

When I try to describe what my parents and extended family taught me about how to live my life, I think I can cover it in just a few sentences:

1. Treat other people the way you want to be treated.
2. Reach out your hand to help people in need.
3. Think for yourself. Be wary of people who try to control your thoughts and behavior.
4. Be a credit to your family.
5. Always be aware that other people's experience is different than your own. Don't assume that people will (or should) be just like you.

My parents were Methodist missionaries in Japan. I was born at Duke University hospital while the family was home on furlough. We then returned to Japan and I spent the earliest part of my life immersed in Japanese culture. I'm sure this shaped who I am today, but I can't always articulate how it is so.

Prior to their service in Japan, my parents were early members of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Mother still talks about riding in the Jim Crow train cars so she could travel with her African American colleagues. Clearly, the example and teachings of my parents shaped who I am today.

The main message that resonated through my early life was one of LOVE for your fellow man.

I've spent the last two or three years AMAZED at the vitriol that is constantly spewed in the direction of President Barack Obama. I've collected some of the most insane rantings that I came across. Here are a few examples:

"Obama is an affirmative action mistake who has no clue what role government should play for wealth to be created. He has no American values. None. He will go down historically as the worst president in the history of the United States"

"I don't know what you read...There is a list of all the money this creep gave to the muslims...I guess you don't know he wants you to die. He can lie his ass off to the infidel and thats what he thinks about all Christians. All the money that help put him where he is was muslim money. No the liberal press want report it it. I will pray that he never wins again and if you would go and find the truth or new the truth you would be praying too. Thats all I am going to say about it......He has charmed the people like the serpent he is. God said that the true Isreal would turn there face from God..He knew you would. He will smite you just as he said."

I've seen pictures of Michelle Obama as a monster from outer space. I've seen Obama's famous campaign poster redrawn to show him with a noose around his neck. I've read that he is a Muslim, that he is planning to turn our country over to foreign Islamic leaders, that he isn't an American, that he is the devil incarnate, that he got into Harvard because he is a minority, that his school records would show that he didn't really earn his law degree, etc.

There is only one reason why a political party would welcome hateful, nasty, ignorant and racist people into the fold. They know they need them in order to win.

If the rest of us allow that to happen - if we let the party that welcomes the WORST of us with open arms win this election, then we need to prepare ourselves for an ever expanding spiral of horror as more and more people voice their most violent and nasty thoughts. When this is not just tolerated, but encouraged, there can be no doubt that the leadership of that group needs to be shut down and driven out of the political process.

As a progressive Christian, I am appalled and offended by the Republican party's willingness to embrace hate. The only Republican I have ever heard rebuke this kind of thinking is when John McCain testified on the House floor in support of Huma Abedin, the long-time aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Mr. McCain never mentioned Michele Bachmann by name, but he made it clear that he believed that the kind of blind hatred that Ms. Bachmann was spewing needed to stop. This is EXACTLY what the leaders of the Republican party must do. They must root out and censure the most radical, divisive and hateful members of their parties.

AND - the Democrats must do the same when they hear any nasty, hate-filled rhetoric coming from their followers. 

Voters must step up and support those leaders who believe in equality, fairness and in helping their fellow citizens. It is our only hope for a better America.