This is perhaps one of the most disturbing clips I've seen about the fragile state of the American psyche in quite some time. Guardian journalist Ed Pilkinson went to do a story on Ethanol production in Missouri, and spoke with the general manager Roger Hill about the presidential election. Pilkinson expected Hill to be a reasonable man, and supportive of Obama for his stance on Ethanol. Instead, he got the shock of his life when Hill started talking about Muslims taking over London, how Obama was secretly a Muslim (and had admitted it on a video Mr. Hill had on his laptop), and most alarmingly, that Obama was an incarnation of the Anti Christ.
I live in West Hollywood, California, so am not subjected to this type of ignorance on a routine basis. People here are generally educated, liberal and open minded. I have however, spent some time in less populated areas of the country and have mixed with people with very different views from myself. I spent a year in Corvallis, Oregon as part of an exchange program with my university in England, and got to know some Christian fundamentalists pretty well.
The video on the Guardian brought back memories of my time in Oregon, where I was exposed to some troubling aspects of American culture. I was struck by the lack of general education local Oregonians receive, and could not believe that most of my class mates did not understand, or believe in the theory of evolution. There were many highly intelligent people, but without fundamental knowledge in some very basic subjects. I remember feeling extremely disturbed that seemingly normal people could repeat religious doctrine without questioning it, and adhere to a belief system that defied everything modern science and rationality told us about the world. I was also exposed to some more hateful views of the world, where Muslisms were all terrorists, the French were cowardly communists and the American military was to be used to instill fear and take resources wherever and whenever it wanted.
It occurred to me that there were two competing Americas, and two separate cultures vying for power. One that valued intelligence, education and reason, and the other that valued religion, nationalism and fear. The latter was desperately insecure, isolated and dangerous, while the former confused, unable to communicate its ideas, and on the brink of collapse.
That was back in 2002, and a huge amount has changed since then. Progressives have fought back, organizing, educating and strategizing to the point where a Black liberal is on the verge of the Presidency. But there is still a long way to go.
Roger Hill is a classic example of the enormous problems facing America, where respectable, intelligent people repeat the most heinous gibberish without a trace of embarassment. Hill is a symbol of how America is failing its people, a man who seems proud of extreme ignorance and unashamed of hateful views of the world.
It's a reminder that this is a country with some very serious problems that will not go away over night. The Roger Hills of this country have been neglected for too long, and need to be reached if America has a chance of surviving as a nation. George Bush has brought the country to the brink of the abyss only to be rescued at the final hour (and that's if Obama wins), but there is still much work to do.
Ben Cohen is the editor of www.thedailybanter.com and a contributing writer to www.espn.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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