The Nutters Are Coming to Get You

09/13/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

They've always been here. But the nutters are surfacing in a way and to a degree that is finally catching the agape attention of non-nutters. It is not only the ferocity of their anger that is surprising, but the focus of it: this birth certificate stuff, the death panel business, the tea bags, and the apparently heartfelt belief that the end of America is upon us.

It's super nuts.

Still, we are in a realm which, I believe, is more puzzling to most people than frightening. What is this about? Is it possible the nutters are really this outraged about this stuff? That guy at the town hall meeting in Pennsylvania, in his face-off with Arlen Specter about the sanctity of the American constitution, rather seemed, in his paroxysm of raw emotion, to be defending the life of his child.

My friend Larry Kirshbaum, the literary agent, calls this "symbolic rage." The inchoate attaches to the most assertive claim of deviance from, or seeming offense against, virtue and righteousness. The notion of bureaucratic panels with the power of life and death is obviously meant to provoke feelings of helplessness and panic more than to describe the decision-making process of a new health care system. The birther stuff is all about conspiracy and aliens.

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