08/02/2010 11:20 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Wingnuts in Space


Being a non-violent anti-gun type, I can't encourage using "our second amendment rights" against these sorry excuses for human beings. But if I could banish them a la Superman II, I do think I would.

The only way to understand the frothing of the right and of the Tea Party is through a historical lens. Think about the South before the Civil War. Southerners weren't bad people. They'd just been raised not to "see" black people as equal human beings. It was not a philosophical choice they arrived at, it was a given in their reality. They questioned it no more than we question that a 12-year old shouldn't drive a car.

There was a lot of progress in the following century, but in this survey done about whether "negroes" should serve next to to whites in 1947, the results are appalling. A tiny minority supported the idea. (Thank God Truman ignored the majority and integrated the troops in 1948.) Even more shocking is the depth of their anti-semitism. Even after the horrors of the concentration camps, 86% of respondents agreed "There is nothing good about the Jews." 86%. This is "the greatest generation," the good guys we idolize as the embodiment of what is best about America. Nice, perhaps, to their wives and kids. Brave, certainly. But still racists and anti-semites. Not because they decided to be. It was just their unquestioned reality. There was nothing to challenge their perception until the Civil Rights movement changed it for them.

Now we have people who are so convinced they're not racists that they print up "Yup I'm a Racist" t-shirts listing 10 reasons "the government" calls them racist. Oh, I get it, they're being ironic! They think "we" on the left are so against the military, capitalism, safe borders, low taxes, free speech, guns, the bill of rights, and belief in Jesus Christ that we call them "racists" because we don't know how to refute their unassailable patriotic American and Christian convictions.

There really is no arguing with them, anymore than you could argue with a southerner in 1844 or a soldier in 1944. There is very little, if anything, that we can do or say to reach people who nod in agreement when Glenn Beck says Obama hates white people, or Rush blames the oil spill on environmentalists. They will keep believing what they need to believe, because seeing the world in its extraordinary complexity overwhelms them. So everything is dichotomized or simplified. America is good, Europe is bad. Christians are good, Muslims are bad. Guns are good, tree-huggers are bad. Black people whine too much and tend to freeload, and immigrants come here to steal our jobs and use social services. Homosexuals are icky and should stay in the closet. Low taxes are good and they don't cause deficits. There is no global warming. Universal health care is a socialist plot. And on and on and on.

I have a lot of objections to the way Obama has led, first and foremost his tendency to compromise first instead of at the end of a process of negotiation. I think the legislation he shepherded through--and there is a tremendous amount of it--is much weaker as a result. But it's clear that he always studies every single issue, and rarely makes any decision that isn't extremely well-informed. And for the right, this most sterling of qualities is exactly what they dislike the most.

Obama makes them feel stupid and they hate him for it. Bush was just like they were--uninformed, deciding with his "gut," black and white. Obama is not black, he's not white, he's both--the ultimate embodiment of a world that is a mixed and nuanced as he is. He continually challenges their need to be certain in this most uncertain of times, and the more uncomfortable they feel, the more they double down on their simplistic certainty.

I've pretty much concluded we just have to wait for history to swallow up these people as it marches in the same direction it's been going for the last two centuries. I expect when we finally have a Star Trekian society, genuinely color- blind and gender-neutral, then man will have to construct a race of trashy robots who are loud, stupid and vulgar, just so we can have someone to marginalize and make fun of. It could be that the need to think ourselves better than others is deeply embedded in human DNA.