If America is really as fragile as the fear mongers among us claim, then we are dead already.
Not being dead, you and I can push back against the Trumps, Cruzes, Fiorinas, and Rubios. There is an angry minority in this country that supports white supremacy and running everyone else’s lives while touting small-government conservatism. They are louder of late not due to greater numbers, but because opportunists dredged them up from the bottom of the pond–and because their smartphones give them greater reach than their fathers. They are entitled to their ugly opinions, but not to endanger the public safety.
Statements by Republican presidential candidates read like entries from a psychiatrist’s log in Bedlam. Donald Trump doubles down on his lie about thousands of Arabs in Jersey City celebrating the terrorist attacks on 9/11. He touts bogus racist crime stats. He mocks a reporter’s disability, then says he doesn’t know the guy, despite having known him for years. Marco Rubio says to ignore SCOTUS on marriage because “God’s rules always win.” How does his God get to overrule mine?
Carly Fiorina denies any link between her inflammatory lies about Planned Parenthood and the Black Friday killings in Colorado. She draws a false equivalence between Black Lives Matter protesters and people who bomb abortion clinics. Ted Cruz deflects a reporter’s question about clinic shooter Robert Lewis Dear’s cry, “No more baby parts!” (which echoes David Daleiden’s fraudulent infanticide video), by seizing on a dubious claim from the right-wing blogosphere that Dear was a “transgendered [sic] leftist activist.” The same fever swamp yielded the claim that Michelle Obama is really a man.
These candidates appear convinced that all they need is a strong message and a crowd of yahoos cheering them on, and they can create their own reality. But we don’t have to let their propaganda obscure the source of the violence. Those who have been attacking clinics, shooting black demonstrators, and brandishing guns outside mosques are not blacks or Muslims but mostly white Christian men who think they are this country’s rightful owners. That requires willful blindness and ignorance of history.
Abortion opponents show their tenuous grip on reality when they also oppose contraception. Even most Catholic women have used some form of contraception banned by the Vatican. Bishops can sacralize every sperm, but that imposes no obligation on anyone else.
I am pro-choice because a woman’s reproductive decisions are neither mine nor the government’s to make. They are hers. Recognizing this not only helps my sisters, it is in the common interest. If I only address my own problems and do not build alliances, who will be there when the tide turns against me? My colleagues and I in the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington last week joined scores of groups in signing a letter drafted by NARAL Pro-Choice America calling for the Department of Justice to investigate attacks on reproductive-health clinics as acts of domestic terrorism.
If this doesn’t matter to you, you might consider that a future Supreme Court that reversed Roe on abortion and Griswold on birth control could also reverse Lawrence on sodomy and Obergefell on marriage equality. Preserving our hard-won rights requires broad-based coalitions. Cooperation and compromise are built into the American system as the only way a republic full of diverse interests can long endure.
Slander-fueled violence is no mere tragedy. It is murder designed to instill terror. That is why we must resist any temptation to sit back and wait for the fanatics to defeat themselves. Saboteurs needn’t be plentiful to be effective. The provocateurs need to pay a price at the polls. The longer we put off a reckoning, the more civil unrest they will foment.
If we mobilize and vote, we can keep the fascists and know-nothings from controlling all three branches of government. This is but the latest skirmish in a long struggle. Our opponents’ obstruction and violence will continue. Beating them back requires vigilance and perseverance.
America has seen panic-driven campaigns of intolerance before, as the movie Trumbo shows with the story of the Hollywood blacklist. Goya wrote, “The sleep of reason produces monsters.” To defend our country, we must defend her founding ideals.
Richard J. Rosendall is a writer and activist. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Copyright © 2015 by Richard J. Rosendall. All rights reserved.