I frequently ask my friend to go beyond describing Republicans as crazy, stupid and moronic. What makes them crazy, stupid and moronic? They have no sense. Why don’t they have any sense? I went back to a statement by Karen Armstrong that she knew of no genocidal movement of religious extremism that had not begun with a sense of being annihilated on the part of the perpetrators, a sense that their identity was not just being attacked but being taken from them. Think the distraught lady crying out, “I want my country back!”
What country? we all ask. For me, the identity crisis has to do with the major dividing line among people in this country: race. Yes, there are lines of class, education, income, residence, etc., but when you encounter someone in the U.S., the deal-breaker is race, it trumps all.
I am open to challenges on that, but when you look at the heart of the Republican success story (?), it was the disaffected White South that formed the heart of the Republican insurgency. I watched a PBS program titled Bombs Away! showing the Goldwater take-over of the GOP. The narrator is, of all people, Pat Buchanen. He and other commentators make it clear that the insurgents were from the South and West and, needless to say, White. How hard it must have been to resist swooping up those votes, esp since so many had been Democrats, without thinking how middle-aged most of those people were. Hillary Clinton was a Goldwater girl and look what happened to her when the hold-an-aspirin-between-your-legs-for-birth-control crowd, and the abortion is for sluts and like taking an ax to a baby in its crib maniacs, and the America-is-a-Christian-nation-and-the-Founders-were-all-Bible-believing-Christians contingent, and the kill-the-queers mob all came to dominate the GOP. Rick Santorum and masturbation kills? Pat Buchanen and White Western Christiandom must rule? Ron Paul and let the sick die in a ditch? Pat Robertson and the Haitians brought AIDS and earthquakes on themselves by rebelling against the slave-holders? Jerry Falwell and no interracial dating on his campus? Rick Perry and secession? Huckaby and Beyonce’s pipes? It’s so absurd with its anti-immigrant, anti-gay, anti-voting record that it is understandable that the GOP can only be described as crazy, stupid and moronic.
But these people are no different from the Chinese who went crazy when they found out they were not the Middle Kingdom, the Japanese when they found out they were not superior, the Muslims when they found out not everyone wanted to submit under Islam, the European Right when they found out their world dominance was slipping and former colonials were moving in, the Communists when they discovered their economics stank. Anyone who has been taught they are superior and it is that superiority that makes them who they are, i.e. makes up their identity will go bonkers when that is challenged. That explains why so many White Southerners are not racist or at least not viciously racist; their identity is not tied up in that. I just watched an Oprah show where she brought some of the faces in the mob screaming at the Little Rock Nine and one man said he just went along with the crowd and his family had never even used the N word (N = nigger, BTW) but a woman said indeed her family had been vehemently racist adding that she had broken that heritage with her children. So it does vary from person to person in intensity, but no one can look at the geographical and demographical location of GOP strength and not see a threatened people.
Why the West? I believe it was the fear of the federal government b/c so much of the land and resources are under federal control. The Clive Bundy is an excellent example. The-land-is-mine-b/c-I’m-on-it. No gummit agents or revenooers wanted.
My friend again yesterday started in on the Republicans with stupid, crazy, etc. I asked him what was stupid about what they were doing. He slowed down and got specific. Good. It is hard.
I just picked up at the library today a copy of Dog-Whistle Politics by Ian Haney-Lopez. He introduces it by describing his intense reaction to Daniel Bell, his professor, saying that no real progress on race had been made at that time, early 90s. So intense was Haney-Lopez’ reaction to what he thought an absurd statement that he stopped attending class. He regretted that b/c he came to understand Bell’s viewpoint. He then describes his trip through apartheid South Africa and Namibia and his realization that out-and-out racists were good people, like everyone else.
That makes me excited to read the book, b/c we’ll never get anywhere thinking of racism as a matter of personal morality; it’s not. When we say structural racism, we usually refer to mechanisms, but then there’s the racist perspective, one deriving from our colonial past and which persists. Clearly, I’ll be blogging on this book.