Fearing the Republican curse
Aspen, CO Colorado
Republicans are meaner than witches.
I’m sorry if any witches’ feelings are hurt by this, but I know firsthand that it’s true.
My experience with witches came a few years ago after I wrote a defense of organized religion. It made a small stir locally, and I answered a dozen or so e-mails and phone calls from variously interested regular readers. I spent the weekend thinking little more about it.
Imagine my surprise Monday, then, when I left-clicked my inbox open to find it stuffed with hundreds of messages from around the country. My story had found its way to a popular Witch Coven’s website. I found myself laden with curses, hexes and spells from all points where kooks and spooks are guaranteed freedom to practice such things. The haphazard sampling of notes that I read proved witches are indeed frightening people (?).
Eventually, somebody else said something nice about God or posted some uplifting lines of prose in a chat room somewhere, and I was supplanted at the top of the voodoo list. The hate mail slowed to the trickle that is normal runoff for this job.
My ensuing literary life remained relatively serene, until a couple of weeks ago when I got a crazy notion to publicly criticize the words of fellow Aspen Times columnist Gary Hubbell, who wrote a piece describing what he dubbed the Angry White Man (AWM) and threatened that this character represented the segment of our population that would decide who was going to be the next president of the United States.
In summary, Hubbell said the AWM believes that that the Constitution of the United States should not be interpreted as a “living document” (presumably insinuating that all of the amendments were mistakes), that all Supreme Court justices were/are lazy and dishonest, that killing somebody that “needs killing” doesn’t really bother him, that a man can’t be part of the group if he’s homosexual, that anybody killed by hurricane Katrina deserved to die because they were helpless and stupid, that a good AWM doesn’t care what his true ethnic background is because he considers himself to be white, that you should get a fair chance only if you speak English, and, finally, that women are more emotional than rational and that’s why they need an AWM to guide them.
Being the radical activist that I am, I disagreed with some of this. And since his column ran first in our town and I didn’t think it reflected well on The Aspen Times readership, or most of the human race for that matter, I wrote what I thought about it.
I didn’t get a huge response the day my column ran. I reasoned that Hubbell’s message had not resonated through the Roaring Fork Valley and ,thus, my refutation was unnecessary.
I underestimated not only the relatively minuscule size of our community, but also its place in this enormous country. Hubbell’s piece caught hold in a big way nationwide. It was the hot topic on the conservative talk radio circuit. My rebuttal got caught in the back draft and went along for a short stint of the ride.
What I didn’t know immediately is that excerpts from my column were read by one Michael Smerconish on his partisanly-parsed radio broadcast in Philadelphia. What I did immediately know is that mid-day Monday my computer began beeping about every 10 seconds with the arrival of a new e-mail. It resembled what a garbage truck might sound like if it were backing into my office to dump its putrid load.
The messages were more callous than warts on a witch’s nose and colder than a witch’s … well, never mind. Suffice it to say they were ugly, in some cases frightening. Many were blatantly and unapologetically hateful, racist and sexist. They were, as a whole, far nastier than those I got from the practitioners of black magic.
OK, I baited you with the opening line and will now answer for it. I know that not all Republicans are Angry White Men. However, the Angry White Men of this country have claimed this as their political party. Rush Limbaugh, the unofficial but extremely audible Republican spokesperson, has lavished them with national exposure, which they have undoubtedly used to pursue credibility. It is illustrative of a trend in conservative politics.
The Angry White Men claim they will be the deciding factor in November’s general election and take credit for the last, boasting that almost all of them voted for George Bush. We are supposed to conclude cause and effect from this warning, which might or might not be the case. Regardless, the AWM is now riding on the elephant’s back in hopes of transporting their fringe agenda of racism, chauvinism, and hatred into America’s mainstream. Perhaps they are already through the gate.
The Republican Party is reeling under the strain of the Bush administration pulling away from the will of this country’s citizens over the past eight years. Centrists are drifting away like the evaporated optimism that overflowed the red cup just two terms ago. In reaction, conservative leaders have become so desperate to win elections that they increasingly are willing to lend small, radical fringe groups credence by association for the sole purpose of patching together a constituency that resembles a base broad enough to compete for a majority.
The problem is all of these tangential factions under the protection of one umbrella are forced to support each other’s programs in order to sustain their individual agenda. The result is core values are diminished and replaced at the forefront with a lot of refuse propelled forward with the entire Republican Party behind it. And, weak or not, popular support is popular support nonetheless.
It is dangerously close to being past high time for Republican leaders to stand up and publicly separate themselves from groups like the AWM, to honestly denounce the vile beliefs that dangerous, small-minded people polish with rhetoric, adorn with sentimentality and trim with nostalgia so as to offer them to the rest of us as long-held American values. If the Republican Party continues to put off this simple and decent denunciation, publicly and decisively, I am afraid I will have to addend the initial proposition statement of this essay:
Republicans are scarier than witches, too.