WASHINGTON D.C.—For almost five years I have been saying that our nation is losing its civility. Over the past two years, I have witnessed the worst behavior by some of the people that I once held in high esteem. I was taught at a very young age that if you lose respect of others, there is very little that you can do to obtain it once again. It’s very clear to me that some of the people we think we know well, we actually don’t know them very well at all. A wise woman once said, “Don’t expect to see people for who or what they are until times get tough. Then who they are will be revealed.” In October 2008, the global economy took a tragic turn. Two years later, nations around the world are stabilizing their economies and ours is finally getting on the right track again. However, the historic moment in November 2008 when Barack Obama became the first African-American president in U.S. history, turned to an ugly bigoted and treacherous chapter in our nation’s history.
A man who was the most liberal Senator in the Congress was never going to be the darling of the Tea Party or to many Americans. However, the backlash was swift. People from the Republican Party not only encouraged but reveled in calling the president things he never was. He was called “a Muslim, a terrorist, an Arab, a man who was Kenyan, not American.” Because Midterm elections were fast approaching, the Republican Party rallied behind these battle cries. Congressman Michelle Bachman stated, “Maybe we should start to investigate members of Congress who are not pro-America.” Senatorial Candidate Sharron Angle once stated, “If we do not get the election results we want, perhaps we should resort to our Second Amendment remedies.” Sarah Palin stated among other things, “Dr. Laura, reload! Don’t let haters of Free Speech stop you.” This was in reaction to a backlash against Dr. Laura for calling an African-American caller to her talk show a nigger not once, but a total of 16 times in the span of three minutes.
Ms. Palin also put Congressman Gabrielle Giffords in the “cross hairs” of her political sights, after the Obama healthcare vote. Congressman Giffords stated on CNN last March that she felt threatened and concerned about being placed on Ms. Palin’s hit list. Palin supporters and republicans who support the former governor forget that she quit her job as Alaska’s governor. “I don’t want to be part of partisan politics in Alaska,” Palin stated at the time of her resignation. Perhaps she should have added one caveat to that statement: “Because I prefer to be engaging in partisan politics on a national level.”
President Obama (who had equally liberal predecessors such as President Jimmy Carter, President Lyndon B. Johnson and President Franklin D. Roosevelt) is now called, “scary, frightening, radical and of course all the other terms we hear from so-called civilized society and read on the Internet on a daily basis. Since his presidency, we now receive e-mails about racial demographic changes within our nation. As if Americans had not been aware for decades of these changes. What has changed is that now that we have a face of color in the White House, every bigot’s worst fears have come to pass. The political right once believed liberals were making up conspiracy theories such as speculations about the Kennedy assassinations and Martin Luther King’s assassination. Now the right is spinning outlandish theories. If they are unhappy with the current administration in charge, perhaps they should do what minorities were forced to do between the end of slavery in 1865 until 1965 when blacks were finally allowed to exercise their right to vote. Just be patient. One or two presidential terms really isn’t that long. Many minorities, including members of my family as well as former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s relatives and parents, were not permitted to vote because of the color of their skin until the mid-1960s. Even though the 15th Amendment guarantees American citizens of all races the right to vote, minorities were discouraged from voting by the poll workers who would humiliate them. An example of such humiliation is when poll workers would ask African-American citizens to guess how many jelly beans are in a jar before they would be allowed to vote.
How chilling it is to read e-mails where white citizens call the current president “scary or frightening.” It was not that long ago that a white citizen saying such words about an African-American would have caused the “suspect” to be lynched and murdered in many parts of our country. He is too liberal for many, but scary? He’s a father who is married to the mother of his kids.
Does that mean those who once pretended to have respect for Secretary Condoleezza Rice, Oprah Winfrey, Bill Cosby, General Colin Powell and other prominent African-American leaders were not very honest in their admiration? Or is it acceptable as long as these icons are not president? Some in the African-American felt that these icons are beloved because they have no real power in America, just popularity. These once cynical African-Americans have been proven correct to be suspicious and not to believe that the pretense of respect for blacks was ever genuine by the political right.
Last Saturday, a moderate politician, Congressman Giffords was gunned down in the parking lot of a Safeway grocery store in Tucson, Ariz., while the political right immediately pointed out the shooter was not a right-wing supporter. However, they also attacked the Sheriff of Tucson who rightly stated that the hatred spewed by people who actually make a living of doing so is destroying not only his state but the nation. He said very eloquently, “Arizona has become the Mecca for prejudice and bigotry.” Whereas the people who have engaged in such hateful behavior over the past 24 months make a point that the shooter was mentally ill. Perhaps they should remember that Timothy McVeigh also attacked the Oklahoma Federal building and killed hundreds of men, women and children for the same reasons we hear on cable news and on talk radio today. Our distrust of government has gone from being healthy and productive to downright violent and hateful. If anyone felt a compelling reason to defend their previous behavior to friends or family last Saturday, that says it all.
Let’s remember the young girl Christina-Taylor Green, who died last Saturday at the tender age of 9, who was born on September 11, 2001. Remember whatever behavior you are engaging in is creating the atmosphere for which your own children and grandchildren will be born and possibly die in. It’s not too late to redeem yourselves in the eyes of your family and close friends.
Next week we will discuss how the political left is also equally culpable in the hatemongering that has permeated our political life in America. It is certainly not all the fault of bigots and political right supporters.
Please pray for our nation and for civility to return before we become just like the people we are now fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq.