A favorite campaign slogan of Republican presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann and her Tea Party fan club is to "Take back America."
But back from whom? There is more than a hint in the rhetoric that some people have hijacked the country, and America must be reclaimed. The catch phrase also seems to be suggesting that the nation is in the hands of societal elements whose patriotism leaves something to be desired, a euphemism for the more indelicate label of "un-American".
How about former Governor Sarah Palin repeatedly telling audiences in conservative rural communities that they are the "real America"? Where does that leave the humanity frequenting New York City's Times Square, a Los Angeles barrio, or downtown Chicago? Not in a very favorable place in Palin's narrow, ideologically structured world.
This faux patriotic superiority is an offensive blot on democracy. Americans can disagree on policy. But at the end of the day, whether a street vendor in Harlem, a farmer in Idaho, or a banker in South Carolina, they all start out with the same citizenship birthright. Within that framework, no American has a prima facie monopoly on patriotism because of a particular political view.
On a less abstract level, Representative Bachmann believes global warming is a liberal-contrived hoax to expand government control over individual freedom. Hence, she wants to "take back America" from the roughly 70 percent of the public who are concerned in varying degrees about climate change. And they are concerned for good reason. A recent report by an international group of prominent scientists warning that oceanic marine life is on the brink of a massive extinction if global warming is not slowed is just the latest in a series of jarring ecological alarm bells.
Oblivious as she might be, Bachmann has every right to express her doubts, but given the danger signals emanating from current climate science, who would want to hand over the nation's reins to her, Palin or some other global warming denier?
If you need convincing, the American Lung Association cites data which illustrates some of the downsides of environmental parochialism. While Bachmann has been railing against the Environmental Protection Agency for exceeding its regulatory authority, one of the nation's worst polluting coal-fired power plants is operating full blast in her district. Her home county is the location for more than 7,400 recorded adult cases of chronic bronchitis and 2,400 asthma cases in children, all linked to inferior air quality.
Bachmann and Palin are peddling an exclusionary rather than inclusive picture of the United States that is debilitating as it is divisive. Major urban centers are every bit as much a part of America as rural hamlets. Indeed, consider that the "real" America faces formidable environmental challenges, not the least of which is climate change. Then note that it is the cities, including many large ones, which are in the forefront in responding to this challenge. They have led the way in instituting the expansion of energy efficiency, clean renewable sources of power generation, and greenhouse gas emission reductions. A case in point is the mayors of 142 cities across the nation adopting mandatory measures to slash greenhouse gas pollution.
Contrast their decisive approach with the head-in-the-sand mentality of Bachmann and Palin, two leaders who if they were ever to occupy the White House would be more likely to take America "down" than "back".