Psychologists tell us that human beings naturally form in groups and out groups – identifying those we feel are like us and who therefore can be trusted, and also those who we feel are different and need to be regarded with suspicion. Since September 11th, 2001 the obvious out group that has been most used by politicians from both parties to keep us in fear and so willing to surrender our freedoms has been not just Muslims but in fact anyone who appears to be of Middle Eastern descent.
A couple of days ago, nit wit politician, homophobe, and racist Michele Bachmann accused long time aide to Hillary Clinton Huma Abedin of being part of an Islamic plot to infiltrate our government. Her “evidence” was non-existent and her accusation has drawn fire even from her Republican colleagues for being irresponsible and absurd – two adjectives that might well be used to describe Bachmann herself. The problem is that this is not an isolated incident, and the criticism stops at this particular incident.
We are seeing a return in America to the days of Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s. The only thing that has changed is the topic of the witch hunt. McCarthy hunted Communists until it eventually led to his own demise. Today the subject are co-called radical Islamic fundamentalists, who in reality are no different that the radical Christian fundamentalists like Bachmann who are behind the contemporary version of McCarthy’s witch hunt.
It seems to me that one of the real dangers of this kind of government sponsored racism is that it draws the already limited attention span of Americans away from the rise of racism toward other ethnic minorities. From Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s steadfast refusal to let go of the racially motivated “birther” controversy to the Republican party’s repeated attempt to disenfranchise Black voters, our country is headed full speed in reverse to the segregation policies of the 1950s and earlier. Most upsetting of all is that moderate to progressive white voices are largely silent when we should be taking to the streets to tell these small-minded bigots that we won’t tolerate a return to the bad old days of government sponsored racism.
At the heart of all this lies the unavoidable question – do we really need someone to hate? It would seem that Americans are simply incapable to admitting that all human beings are created equal, and the reason is that we are a people embroiled in a chronic inferiority complex. We don’t like ourselves, we don’t believe we are good enough, and so to make ourselves feel better we engage in behavior that proves that we aren’t, in fact, good enough and that rather than evolve we are regressing at a frantic pace.
Over the last few generations, progressives in America have taken on the safe and, in the larger scheme of things, insignificant issue like whether we should shop at Wal-Mart – which, as an aside, only requires change from those on the lower end of the economic ladder who can’t afford to shop at the high-end department stores Wal-Mart’s critics shop at – and have conveniently ignored the more profound issues that might cause them to get their hands dirty such as racial profiling in Arizona. In doing so, they have become complicit in the hatred politics of the Right.
Somehow, we really do all need to learn to get along. The survival of all of us absolutely depends on it. It will require courage, which may leave many of us out in the cold, but the alternative is that we become increasingly controlled by the professional manipulators we elect to public office. I don’t know about you, but that’s not a future I am interested in.