Mobs, Guns & Cloaks

When I was nine years old, I was very excited about ordering the Jumping Spider toy that Bazooka Bubble Gum was offering for .25 cents and a few wrappers. After I sent off my envelope, I waited for the mailman every day like some kids wait for Santa Claus. The summer ended, school began, winter came, and still the Jumping Spider didn’t arrive. It never did. I was so mad that I went on full Bazooka strike, refusing to buy any more hard squares of pink gum, and warning all my friends not to send them money.

A year or so later, it occurred to me that sending a bulky envelope full of change through the mail system probably wasn’t the wisest thing to do. The envelope could have easily ripped, and may have gotten shredded in the USPS’s letter sorting machines. I ended my Bazooka strike then, realizing that the Bazooka people might not be the heartless, dream-stealing, penny-thieving, child haters I once thought they were.

However, at least I had a tangible reason for feeling the way I did. A real thing was actually lost — not just a philosophical thing, or a principle, or an argument. And while I was upset with Bazooka, I never once thought, “Hey, I’ll show them how mad I am and bring a gun to their next event.” Not only because that would be a really sick way to think, and an ignorant thing to do, but because the chances are that the folks at Bazooka would have just found me scary and, well, kind of repugnant.

Watching the rage-filled Republicans (as opposed to the more sensible ones) at the town hall meetings on health care reform, I don’t see reasonable debate and sincere questions. I see a mob out for blood where no crime has been committed, and conservatives who refuse to take any responsibility for how the actions of their party have affected the country and other citizens. I see a rage that is totally out of proportion to the issues being discussed.

So far, taxes are the same as they were under Bush. The unemployment and foreclosure rate has not changed drastically. The cost of living now is no higher than it was eight months ago. So far, the very real and tangible things that directly impact our daily lives have not changed — but some Republican protesters are behaving as if they’ve been personally robbed by the health care debate. They’re charging into town screaming and angry, some with loaded guns, and with a lynch mob mentality that smacks of constrained racism.

The fury of mobs is often stoked by convoluted stories that spread like wildfire, and that increase in animus with every telling. During the election, the angry Republican mob insisted that Obama was a Muslim and hoped that would scare people. They claimed he lied about his schooling, his work background, and even the origin of his name. Now that he’s President, they claim that he has a fake birth certificate and that his health care reforms will kill Grandma via “death panels”.

Members of the mob have insisted that their bloated anger is not about race or hate, but about “conservatism” versus liberalism. However, their level of rage is out of line with any tangible, or even foreseeable, deficit in the quality of their personal lives. It exceeds the boundaries of heated political differences. I believe the backstory, and the motivation for such raucous displays, is found in the presence of guns.

Guns were not displayed for President Carter, who was far more liberal than Obama, and who led this country during a time of double-digit inflation, high interest rates, and oil shortages. Nor were they brought out for President Clinton, even while the right-wing was working very hard to have him impeached. And even when the majority of the country disagreed with the war in Iraq, no one brought guns to the protests. So I have to ask why now, why with Obama?

I am not a knee-jerk reactionary when it comes to issues of culture and race, but the arguments made by the mobs in defense of their atrocious behavior simply don’t wash. They seem to be using the issue of health care reform to express an anger that goes deeper than mere politics or philosophy, and there is a maliciousness to their public gun toting that goes far beyond debate and protest.

I don’t think that any die-hard Republican, much less one who joins or encourages the mobs, will ever come to the understanding that their party is largely responsible for the economic disaster we are in today. I don’t think they’re likely to pry themselves from the dogmatic notion that government programs (and regulations) are like Satan in the angelic world of a free market society, where competition is believed to weed out the gluttons and thieves — even when competition is scarce due to huge conglomerates and monopolies.

I disagree with many core Republican philosophies, but I realize that a multi-party system is fundamental to a thriving democracy. I am deeply disappointed that moderate Republicans have not stepped up the plate in any substantial number to condemn the mob mentality, ignorant speech, and underlying racism that has become front and center of their party.

Racism, no matter how overt or guised, should not be tolerated, much less encouraged by any political party. Racism is not just a belief, but an act of fear, cowardice, and regression – it has nothing to do with patriotism, “freedom”, the Second Amendment, or any other political cloak the mob has used to swaddle their hatred and sense of racial entitlement.

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