Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Surreal Americans

We at the Egg have been properly peeved by Gov. Palin's campaign-trail remark to the effect that small towns in the South and West are "real America," with the implication that those of us in cities or towns outside the GOP safe-zone are unpatriotic.  It was a mean-spirited and divisive remark, for which she has been roundly and appropriately chastised.  Lesson learned, right?


First we had Rep. Michelle Bachmann call for investigations of the un-American activities in Congress.  That was weird, in a retro sort of way.  "Tailgunner Shelly" they call her -- you know, like "Tailgunner Joe."

Then top McCain aide Nancy Pfotenhauer told MSNBC that even though her candidate is losing in northern Virginia, he was still strong in "the rest of the state, real Virginia, if you will."  We won't, and neither will most Virginians.
Next we had another congressman, Robin Hayes of North Carolina, who warmed up a rally by declaring that "liberals hate real Americans that work and accomplish and achieve and believe in God."  When quoted by the press, Hayes denied ever saying it, and threw out the usual Republican accusation of "irresponsible journalism."  But there's a a sound file -- keeping the retro theme, come to think of it, since in our youth another lying Republican was done in by tapes.

So here's the thing we have to be clear about:  Republican politicians -- at least some of them, and those apparently the most conservative -- genuinely believe that people who disagree with their policies are unpatriotic America-bashers.  They really think that, which is why they keep saying it.

They love to call themselves "the party of Lincoln" and to talk about Theodore Roosevelt, a politician so progressive that even progressive Republicans (remember them?) drove him out of their party.  But in fact, scratch even a little bit beneath the surface, and you can see that the modern-day GOP is still the party of Nixon and McCarthy -- that is, the party of paranoia and fearmongering.

Actually, it's a little bit worse.  The Grand Old Party of yore, to which Father A. still professes his fond if nostalgic allegiance, was distinguished by one especially honorable characteristic:  resistance to the ethnic manipulation of the Democrats, which in the South was outright racism.  But when Rep. Hayes mentioned to his crowd that there was a clear choice between Obama and McCain, somebody from the crowd shouted out "It's black and white."  That is a chilling reminder of what's really going on beneath the surface of these rallies, and of what the party has become. 

This "real American" business is a strange strategy, given that Gov. Palin's husband belonged for several years to a genuinely anti-American party, devoted to Alaskan separatism -- and that, as we have seen before, beneath the worst of Southern conservatism there is another genuine strain of ant-American separatism, as witnessed by Bill Murchison and the League of the South.  

For the record, Father A. quite likes the United States of America, as presently constituted.  His ancestors settled New Amsterdam, and his wife's settled Jamestown.  He can recite from memory the lyrics to perhaps 75 of the best-loved American folk songs, although he has been asked not to sing them before company.  Fresh out of college, he offered to defend his nation for no reason other than the sheer gratitude for its gifts (the offer was rejected for medical reasons).  His 19-month-old son salutes the flag every morning while Mommy says the pledge.  And - perhaps more to the point -- Father A. cries when burying veterans, which is often, and after 9/11 counseled survivors and buried the slain.  

We would be surprised to learn that Palin, Hayes et al. can say the same on many of these counts.  That doesn't mean they are bad Americans.  We would not say such a thing, at least not easily.  But  their recent behavior does suggest that that they are wretched human beings.  

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