The congressional heckle heard around the world ... thousands converge on Washington DC for hate-fest 2009. Birthers, deathers, and conspiracy theorists feed rumor and misinformation via biased "news" channels.
Looking at the national health care debate, one may begin to think that the United States has lost its collective mind. As implausible as it may sound, this could be just the beginning. I fear that we have yet to see the worst of what the far right has in store for the rest of America.
What could possibly be more polarizing than the current health care debate? Immigration reform. Immigration will open the hornet's nest that is the conservative right and their rabid minions will swarm the sky like nothing we have ever seen before, save maybe during the Reformation and passing of the 14th and 15th amendments.
In some fashion they are already buzzing. Hate mongers like Lou Dobbs, Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh blame immigrants for almost every ill plaguing America, feeding off fear and ignorance to fatten their ratings. Ask a protester at one of these circus town halls or tea bag parties, and you will hear the putrid regurgitation of lies as if they were holy psalms. To paraphrase one such child of God:
... Illegals ... send on the first bus one way back to wherever they came from ... send 'em home with a bullet in the head the second time.
The template is clear. Conservatives will claim that America is going into chaos and that this President is the harbinger of death to liberty and democracy. While wrapping themselves in the flag representing freedom for all, they fight to deny freedoms and dehumanize men, women and children whose only crime is not waiting in line while their families starve before trying and find work and a better life in America.
The right will focus on so-called "amnesty." They will say the President is caving to criminals, that he is giving the country away. They will make people fear that "illegals" are at every turn, a danger to society. They will say they are doing this to "take their country back." The question is again -- take it back from whom?
The "moderate" voices will mask the same arguments under "fighting terrorism." They will bring up 9/11, forgetting that many immigrants, some undocumented, died horribly in that tragedy, and many have died or are dying of health complications from participating in the subsequent clean up efforts.
Perhaps most disturbing, the rhetoric that will come from the right will begin a bonfire of violence against those perceived to be immigrants. Already, we are seeing an increase in anti-immigrant violence across the country. They will foster an atmosphere so thick with suspicion and prejudice that neighbors will have trouble looking each other in the eye.
How can the rest of America protect itself from this new wave of vitriol coming our way? Preparing ourselves will be crucial, for a nation unprepared for this tsunami will be too late to protect innocents who fall victim to its wrath.
We must strengthen the enforcement of hate crime laws, and make it clear that violence to others based on the victim's supposed group will not be tolerated.
We must make sure that rumors and misinformation are confronted head on and early by the media, community groups and politicians.
The media must stop giving fringe elements "equal time" for debate in order to appear balanced.
We must strengthen the resolve of our representatives who we elected on a change and reform platform, and let them know they have the support of a majority of Americans, and that we will hold them accountable should they cower under the heavy hammer of the regressionist movement.
Above all, we must all prepare to support reform. Support by talking to friends, relatives, colleagues about why it is crucial to keep families united, to allow for a transition from undocumented to documented status, and allow families to come out of the shadows.
We changed the policy makers through the ballot box, but changing minds happens across the dinner table and at local public forums. Supporters must defend their rights to be heard with poise and dignity and not tolerate the chaos we've seen in previous town hall gatherings. .
The good news is the right wing has played their hand early in the "change game." By pulling out most of the stops against health care, we now have an idea of how they will attack immigration reform. The real grass roots movement must rise again and not only defend reform, but protect the people most affected. It will be hard, it will difficult, but change is always difficult, and those who would "conserve" the status quo are not going to give it up without waging the fight of their lives. Neither will we.
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