Now that irresponsible opportunists have brought many of the misled to Washington, we can begin to contemplate what makes bigotry so appealing. Surely, being able to exclude is one of the great joys of the species because it can give a grand identity to the average person.
That identity as one of the elect made the red glow in Southern white necks. They felt part of a civilization in which they were looked down upon until they put on their costumes, screamed loudly at mob gatherings and committed acts of violence.
While bigotry is as American as apple pie, its shelf life is now rather short. The easily dismissed lies that Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich have used to fire up the true believers will not work. After race-baiting as clearly as they could on the issue of a proposed Islamic center near Ground Zero, all of them have attempted to “clarify” what they actually meant.
The reason that opportunists from the right have had to tread carefully is that nobody today desires to be called a racist. And so they’ve reframed their Islamophobia as an issue of constitutional rights. This is a variation on the purportedly genteel Southern racists who claimed that the real issue during the civil rights movement was not ethnic exclusion, but the rights of states.
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That was a ball of dung big enough to play soccer with. It was Ron Paul who surprised everyone on the left with an actual understanding of the Constitution – and support for the Islamic center. American politics is not about whether someone likes the rights that document ensures. Liking has nothing to do with the basic laws of our social contract.
To live and let live under the rule of law underlies our national identity, as Paul pointed out in a statement that sunk many Republicans in a pool of wack.
The real issue then, cry the race hustlers, is not the constitutional right to build the Islamic center. It’s about sensitivity to the 9/11 families. Yet reason always separates itself from the emotions of the moment. That is why the Constitution remains a universal model for the highest social ideals.
The majority of Americans know what the likes of Beck and Palin are really about, no matter how loudly they ring out their message from the propaganda fount we call Fox News. Being seen as a moose-hunting career woman with spunk – or a passionate commentator who loves America so much that he routinely breaks down and cries on air – will only persuade like-minded bigots. These bottom feeders have swum as low as they can. The pressure of deep water will crush them sooner or later.