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The Rant

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Before the Bush reelection of 2004, an e-mail went around from the GOP to conservatives that stated, "They think you're stupid." Liberals went crazy attempting to discuss the war and the economy instead of creationism and gay marriage. Well, the time has come to admit it. We liberals really do think far right-wingers are stupid, but more than that, we now think they're dangerous as well. And as George Bush proved over eight years, there's nothing more dangerous than an idiot who's convinced that he's right.

The discussion of health-care reform has morphed into a carnival geek show, with every pro-militia, automatic-weapon-toting Tim McVeigh wannabe out to show that nobody pushes them around. And since I live among them, in the South, let's own up to the undercurrent of racial resentment that flows beneath these demonstrations of public anger. It's too simple to say, "Scratch a conservative and find a racist," because there are principled fiscal and social conservatives with much to add to the public debate. But those who hold genuine conservative principles have allowed their movement to be distorted and corrupted by a group that could well be called the "new Dixiecrats." These propagandized "patriots" allow themselves to be used by corporate interests and show up at demonstrations howling "facism, communism, and socialism." Where were these protesters when Dick Cheney and his minions came close to establishing a totalitarian state?

I have a theory that's going to piss off lots of people. I believe we're seeing the unintended consequences of private Christian education. First, let me say that I am a product of Christian education myself and I am all the better for it, because it helped me to understand religious faiths and viewpoints other than my own. So it is not the Christian part of the equation in which I find fault. In 1971, when the Supreme Court upheld busing to achieve integration in public schools, it threw the national educational system into chaos. It may have been a noble ideal, but many considered it "social engineering," and in retrospect, it was impractical policy. It led to the near-complete desertion of public schools in the South by white people. This, in turn, led to the establishment of private Christian academies and to the growth of mega-churches. Congregants found all their needs, from day care and exercise rooms to concert halls and youth sports teams, met by their church community. The unforeseen result was a new type of self-selecting segregation based on suburban church membership.

Another irony is that many of those who are screaming the loudest are members of the "Greatest Generation," who have been on the government teet since 1945. Returning soldiers from the big war were given the biggest slice of socialism this side of Sweden. It was called the G.I. Bill. Not only was a college education granted to every serviceman, low-cost government loans were made available to purchase homes and start businesses. Now, old veterans with white hair are hollering "Keep the government away from my Medicare" at town-hall riots and arguing over phantom health-care rationing and forced euthanasia.

No social progress has ever been made with the help of the obstructionist conservatives. The only things the right-wingers have contributed is free-market Darwinism, Prohibition, and term limits — after Roosevelt drove them crazy. I used to ask my dad what it was like when FDR was president, and he said the GOP, the bankers, and industrialists hated his guts so thoroughly, they refused to refer to him by name, only as "that man in the White House." Or, they called him "Rosenfeld," suggesting that he was a Jew. Sound familiar? He was also known as the "poor man's friend" and called a socialist and a communist. Even President Eisenhower was called a communist by the right when he expressed approval for fluoride, a proven dental aid, to be added to public drinking water. The reactionaries claimed it was a communist plot to rot the teeth of our children. And now, the factually challenged believe our current president is a Kenyan Muslim sent here by sinister forces to rob white people and distribute their earnings to crackheads and crooked ACORN employees. How did we get so damn dumb?

Any societal advances — Social Security, the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts, women's economic and reproductive rights, Medicare or Medicaid — have been accomplished despite the resistance of the naysayers and defenders of the status quo. Some sort of major health-care reform is going to pass this Congress, and in a year or so, it will look so seamless, we'll wonder how we ever allowed our rapacious current system to exist for so long. The Republican Party, under the thumb of the Palin/Limbaugh wing, can't even bring themselves to admit there are no "death panels" in the bill, so why even consider them any further? They lost, so steamroll them and leave them in the wake of progress once again to sulk and lick their wounds.

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