The crazy train, built by the religious right and accelerated by the Tea Party, must stop before it goes off the rails and inflicts severe damage on America. It is unclear what the ultimate aims of these extremists truly are or where they ultimately want to take this country, but it is increasingly clear that people like Rep. Todd "Legitimate Rape" Akin have a markedly different vision of this nation than the rest of us. As their rhetoric grows more reckless, the fundamentalism more inflexible, the "facts" more fantastical, the threats more menacing, the politics more petulant, and the demands increasingly dictatorial, one has to wonder where this precarious road leads.
The right's incoherent hatred of its caricature of government mixes uneasily with its worship of weapons that have virtually nothing to do with hunting or helping protect families from intruders. Their unfounded attacks on America's foundations are as offensive as their stockpile of weapons appears to be offensive. We used to call such efforts sedition, but now they are simply an audition for some GOP and Tea Party candidates. For example, a Lubbock County, Texas, judge, Tom Head, made an appearance on a local television show in which he offered a wild, anti-UN conspiracy theory and suggested rebelling against President Barack Obama and assassinating him. According to The New York Times:
"[Obama] is going to try to hand over the sovereignty of the United States to the U.N.," Mr. Head said on Fox 34 last week. "O.K., what's going to happen when that happens? I'm thinking worst-case scenario: civil unrest, civil disobedience, civil war, maybe. And we're not talking just a few riots here and demonstrations. We're talking Lexington, Concord, take up arms and get rid of the guy."
And if the president did send in United Nations troops, Mr. Head continued, "I don't want 'em in Lubbock County. O.K. So I'm going to stand in front of their armored personnel carriers and say, 'You're not coming in here.' And the sheriff, I've already asked him. I said, 'You gonna back me?' He said, 'Yeah, I'll back you.'
Well, I don't want a bunch of rookies back there," Mr. Head said. "I want trained, equipped, seasoned veteran officers to back me."
In normal times, a citizen might have been arrested for a statement bordering on treason. But in Lubbock, which has been ranked the second most conservative city in the nation, many citizens have actually celebrated Head's arrested development.
The stoking of emotions combined with the stroking of guns is a habit of many conservatives these days. During the recent Chick-fil-A brouhaha, Mississippi Libertarian congressional candidate Ron Williams said the big-city Yankee mayors who rejected Chick-fil-A's antiquated values "need to be introduced to the Second Amendment ASAP":
When government restricts and punishes the people for exercising their First Amendment rights, then we are to default to the Second Amendment (right to keep and bear arms). These two mayors need to be introduced to the Second Amendment ASAP. ... The correct response to these mayors would be to send troops or whatever to remove these men from office, by whatever means is necessary.
The tough talk and fringe views are not reserved for small-time, Boss Hogg-like politicians. Big-time powerbrokers, like Texas Republican Gov. Rick Perry, have threatened to secede from the union. "When we came into the nation in 1845, we were a republic, we were a stand-alone nation," Perry said. "And one of the deals was, we can leave anytime we want. So we're kind of thinking about that again."
The coarsening of our political culture is exacerbated by socially conservative activists. For instance, the direct mail campaigns of the Family Research Council appear designed to enable the unstable, motivate the mad, and incite the insane. Their communications with their followers regularly invoke a phony loss of religious liberty in almost apocalyptic terms. "Are we close to actual tyranny in America?" the group's president, Tony Perkins, asks in one letter. "Are we closer to losing our basic freedoms than any time since the American Revolution?" The truth is, Perkins wouldn't know Paul Revere if he bit him in the rear, and it seems he is deliberately misleading his flock into falsely believing they are martyrs.
In the ultimate mark of madness, leading anti-gay organizations are petitioning FOX News to blacklist me from the cable network's popular show The O'Reilly Factor. Disgracefully and dishonestly trying to tie me to the assailant who shot a security guard at the Family Research Council's D.C. offices, these shameless zealots headlined their petition: "Bill O'Reilly, STOP helping violent homosexuals kill Christians."
Americans should be very concerned about the careless and inflammatory rhetoric that passes for normal on the right these days. We should all stop and ask the critical question no one seems prepared to address: Where is the last stop on the crazy train?