John Colson: Hit and Run
September 11, 2009
“Holy right-wing bullying, Batman, what’ll we do now?”
“Well, Robin, I guess we only have one choice. We’ll just ridicule the hell out of them and they’ll go away.”
I imagine that conversation taking place in a comic book about the Roaring Fork Valley’s latest controversy, the decision by Roaring Fork School Superintendent Judy Haptonstall to block airing of President Barack Obama’s Sept. 8 televised speech to the nation’s school children.
If ever a more meaningless political imbroglio grew out of a more harmless event, I can’t recall it.
But, then again, perhaps that’s a perfect picture of the current pose adopted by the rabid right wing of the Republican party, which was the launching pad for virulent opposition to the president’s chat with the kids.
The party apparently has decided that its best defense, against a growing conviction among voters that Republicanism equals venality, selfishness and ignorance, is a bombastic offense based on bullying and fear-mongering – and I mean offense in every sense of the word.
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And an alarming percentage of the party’s membership seems only too willing to take up this questionable tactic. Witness the “tea party” lunacy at the recent round of town meetings about national health care reform. Witness the public statements by veteran elected officials, seeming to go along with characterizations of the president as a Nazi and a Fascist, and his goal as one of converting the U.S. into some kind of totalitarian dictatorship. Witness the ugly spectacle of a congressional back-bencher screaming, “You lie” at the president as he solemnly lectured the nation on the need for calm discussion of his health-care reform program.
Of course, a lot of this is rooted in the thinly veiled racist claim that Obama was not born in the U.S., that he therefore is not “one of us,” and that he is working on behalf of “them,” whomever “they” may be at a given moment, to take away “our” hard-earned freedom to be idiots.
But, to return to the topic of the moment:
I was astonished when I heard that Haptonstall had blacked out the president’s message to kids in the local district, based on what she at first said was 10 or 15 calls from angry parents. That number later ratcheted up a bit, but still not to a level that came anywhere near a significant portion of the district’s population.
The tenor of the calls has not been revealed, but in light of the behavior of some of the “tea party” crowd at the town hall meetings, I can’t imagine the callers were reasonable or calm. No, I’d imagine they berated the superintendent, or whichever school official they addressed, and in a loud, bullying voice.
It is the bullying behavior of school-yard toughs, this determination to force everyone within sight and hearing to kow-tow to the fear-filled longings of a spoiled brat demanding to have his way or there’ll be Hell to pay.
It is the deep-seated worry that the world is moving inexorably beyond the bully’s flailing fists and frustrated roar, leaving him and his kind to their devices, and to their closed minds and bigoted yearnings for supremacy over anyone who is not “one of us.”
It is pathetic.
The mere fact that Haptonstall gave in to this caterwauling outcry of a mad minority is disturbing. In her desperation to avoid conflict and controversy, she has allowed the forces of darkness to sever, if only momentarily, whatever claim she had to a reputation for reasoned and enlightened leadership.
The fact that letters, comments on websites and other expressions of dismay and outrage have poured out from the ranks of parents and citizens is somewhat comforting. But the tenor of those expressions has too often been dismayingly similar to the screams and threats of the dim-witted minority that demanded the president’s message be kept from the eyes and ears of the student body.
All of this is not the kind of discourse one should expect from the citizenry of a great democracy. It is the howling discord one might expect from the throats of a frenzied mob bent on forming a dictatorship of intolerant fascists.
And this, too, is pathetic and sad.