I didn't go to the conservative March on Washington this weekend, but I have an idea of the hyperbolic, hysterical atmosphere, since I attended a huge anti-abortion march in Washington in the mid-90s. I will never forget the feeling of being surrounded by people who would beat the crap out of me if they could get away with it. Approximately 300,000 anti-abortion protesters were assembled, most of them mad. They carried pictures of aborted fetuses. A huge clear balloon enclosing a pink fetus balloon floated over the crowd. An effigy of Bill Clinton was hung from a wooden pole and beaten, like a pinata.
A man in priest garb who resembled Patty Duke's father held a sign reading, "Chastity, Not Promiscuity." A clown passed out "Stop Abortion Now" buttons, while making animal balloons for kids and accepting donations in a hat. A fat, middle-aged woman wearing a pink tracksuit and a fanny pack, looking like she hailed from a middle school lunchroom kitchen, said, "Way-yul, ah oughta go home and put on muh clown suit, make me some money! Heh, heh, heh."
The whole crowd looked incredibly like the residents of Waynesville, North Carolina, a low-income and extremely right-wing hamlet near my hometown of Asheville. None of the Christians I was raised with would be caught dead at this gathering. These people were what my mom called "That holy-roller bunch from out in the country."
Then a young man passing out "Keep Abortion Legal" buttons passed by me. I said, "Excuse me, aren't you taking your life into your hands here?" He said, "It's OK, I know Tae Kwon Do if it gets dicey. Want a button?"
A middle-aged woman, her face twisted in a mask of rage and fury, marched up and started yelling at him. A quick shouting match ensued a foot from my face, and I said, "Whoa, keep it down, folks. Let's agree to disagree."
"THIS MAN IS A MURDERER!" the woman said, jabbing her finger at the guy. "HE'S PARTICIPATING IN GENOCIDE! HE DOESN'T CARE HOW MANY BABIES ARE KILLED!!!"
I said, "Come on, you don't even know him," thinking I could actually reason with this screaming harpy. She turned on me, spitting, "DON'T YOU THINK LIFE IS PRECIOUS?"
I said, "Well, I think it's cute."
She didn't get the joke. "ARE YOU ANTI-FAMILY??"
"I'm anti your family."
The woman screamed, "WHAT IF YOUR MOTHER HAD ABORTED YOU? WHAT IF YOUR MOTHER HAD ABORTED YOU?"
I took a deep breath and said, "Well, then, madam, we would be mercifully spared this boring conversation."
I recall that day -- and the nervous, almost pornographic feeling of anger and rage in the air -- as I watch coverage of the September 12 march on Washington against government waste, health reform, all things Obama, and sanity in general. The same hyperbole appears on the same homemade signs, but this time it's more threatening, and blatantly racist: "We came unarmed...this time." "Impeach the Muslim Marxist." "Pelosi -- you keep the Fascism, I'll keep the freedom." "Get out your guns -- you'll need them." "Keep your black hands off my white body."
The anti-abortion people would protest no matter who was in the White House. But isn't it ironic the September 12 protesters stayed quietly at home while the Republicans were in power, doing the very things they accuse Obama of, with much less finesse?
The people who sat idly by while helping to enable the crisis are horrified at what someone is doing to try to halt the crisis. The party of personal responsibility has become the party of no personal responsibility.
Now that she presidential shoes are on the other feet, deficit-spending conservatives have magically transformed back into fiscal conservatives, vehemently against adding more debt when they previously had no problem adding more debt, driving us into the ditch we currently occupy.
The crowd yammers on about "mortgaging our kids' future" after 8 years of supporting policies that long ago mortgaged our kids' future.
WHAT? ANOTHER TRILLION DOLLARS? they gasp. Gee, where were they when Bush was handing out money like condoms at a sex club? The national debt was ten trillion dollars before the Obamas even toured the White House. And, thanks to the bottomless pit that is Iraq, it will go up another trillion if not one additional federal dollar is used to buy a Twizzler.
What really steams these protesters is 1) they are not in power, 2) they blew the last 8 years and need somewhere to direct their rage, 3) the president is actually trying to follow through the promises he made in the campaign, 4) the president is a black guy, and 5) they couldn't define "Marxism" or "Fascism" if you held a gun to their head, which in this crowd could happen.
And lo and behold, people who couldn't tell supply-side economics from home economics are suddenly experts in the nuances of health care finance.
I'm all for protest. I'm all for Marching On Washington, and I plan to do it soon, in the National March for Equality on October 11. But when I march, I will know what I am talking about a lot more than the people in Washington on September 12 did.