Friday, June 19, 2009

Can't Take the Chaos II

The clouds dispell'd, the sky resum'd her light,
And Nature stood recover'd of her fright.
But fear, the last of ills, remain'd behind,
And horrow heavy sat on every mind.
-- John Dryden, Theodore and Honoria

Something I failed to mention in my observances of the current cultural and political chaos this country appears to be engulfed in is how mainstream the previously fringe fears and accusations have become.

The anti-Obama, anti-abortion, anti-diversity conspiracy theorists aren't simply the parade of wingnuts writing at Free Republic or being promoted by Fox News. In fact, part of my disgust with the fringe fears is due in part to the constant perpetuation of those fears by allowing far-right writers maintain a strangle hold on the op-ed columns in my local paper, the Idaho State Journal. I have written before about the likes of Craig Bosley, Richard Larsen and Mark Balzer, three guys who get more space per week in the ISJ than the obituaries.

How can a person avoid the looming chaos and hatred if it is running rampant through the local news?

This morning the Idaho State Journal offered four letters-to-the-editor and of the four, only one was without outright lies and prejudices (that is assuming that someone did in fact watch a car dump off a box of kittens to a local church parking lot). Granted, the odds could be much worse for truth actually being printed in a fairly well-read newspaper, but still, the fringe elements are all the closer to the surface when a community's only print news presents them quickly and without hesitation. Why are these letters an issue? Well, certainly not for any reason that has to do with the First Amendment, though every conservative that read the paper this morning and reads this will tell you I have something against the First Amendment. I assure you, I have a healthy respect for the First Amendment, but I do not appreciate being greeted by lies when I pick up the morning paper. And I can't help but wonder if the editorial board of the ISJ completely missed the events of the past few weeks.

The first letter printed this morning below a large Jim Margulies political cartoon was titled "Abortion." Not only did this person rail on President Obama for being pro-choice, she continued to tow the tired conservative line regarding torture. The letter writer asked how President Obama and others who cry foul when this country uses torture to attain "much good information...that saved many lives" can support the "murder" of babies. One life is more valuable to us pro-choicers than another? Of course not, but that doesn't stop this writer for continuing on to describe in graphic detail what she believes happens in a partial-birth abortion. I'm guessing this writer has absolutely no idea what happens in an IDX procedure. Why? This is exactly what the person writes:
[If you are squeamish or easily disturbed, I do NOT recommend reading the following quotation.]

"I would like to comment on the so-called torture. Do you really know what torture is, President Obama? Torture is having an abortionist reach into the womb, guided by ultrasound, and grabbing the legs of the baby and pulling them into the birth canal, then delivering the baby's entire body except for its head, then having the abortionist jam scissors into the baby's skull and opening the scissors to enlarge the hole. The scissors are then removed and...the child's brains are then sucked out, causing the skull to collapse. The murdered baby is then removed and discarded."
Yes, this was printed in the newspaper that many teachers ask their middle school aged and younger students to read prior to the start of many a summer school session. The only part of this letter that showed an ounce of compassion was the fact that the writer called the doctor an "abortionist," but then again, the Idaho State Journal has Dr. Bosley to call these doctors, including George Tiller, murderers.

Oh, and did I mention that the author, one Lonnie Taggart of Grace, Idaho, also stated with certainty that we'd only used torturous methods on a total of three terrorists? Yes, three terrorists, while he/she points out that we "murdered" 1.5 million babies in this country last year.

The anti-Obama filth did not end with Taggart's horrific letter, the Idaho State Journal printed another that was if anything, even more appalling than the first.

The second letter-to-the-editor that left me stunned this morning was written by John O. Cotant. Those of you outside of southern Idaho may not be familiar with the name, so I'll point you to a proclamation made in appreciation for Mr. Cotant's thirty-six years of service to the city of Chubbuck. Cotant served as the mayor of Chubbuck, Idaho for thirty-six years and was praised by members of the United States Senate. What did Mr. Cotant have to say? His anti-Obama rant nearly mirrors that of many "birthers" (conspiracy theorists who insist that President Obama is not an American citizen and his lack of citizenship will bring this country to a screeching halt):
"Last fall when I was asked who I was voting for [P]resident of the United States I often replied this way, 'I am an American, I know that Diane and Chick Bilyeu are Americans,' and I have never voted against the Bilyeus. 'I know that John McCain is an American. I do not know who or what Barack Obama is." I am voting for the one who I know is an American, John McCain."

Yes, this is a man who served at the beck and call of the Idaho Republican Party and as the mayor of Chubbuck for thirty-six years and here he is in my local paper saying that he doesn't believe that Obama is an American. His "who or what" comment suggests something entirely outside the realm of my own logic and I am absolutely amazed by the gall of this man. And I must say I was irritated and embarrassed for Diane Bilyeu--she and her late husband have been nothing but upstanding and acutely sensitive members of this community. My perception of Mayor Cotant certainly reflects nothing similar.

Believe it or not, Cotant didn't stop there. He went on to question why President Obama hadn't stopped to lay wreaths at the cemeteries of our war dead on his recent trip to France. He went on to question how Obama could accuse Americans of being arrogant when he can't possibly know our history well enough to know that among the French we are anything but arrogant. Why can't President Obama possibly know our history well enough? His words speak for themselves:
"I question if President Obama even knows there are American military cemeteries in France...President Obama did not attend schools K-12 in America. He apparently was in school in Southeast Asia or other parts of the world. He did attend Harvard, but at that university today, little is taught about the greatest nation on earth."

Mayor Cotant doesn't know if Obama is an American, even though it has been verified that Obama was born in Hawaii. It appears Mayor Cotant wishes to discredit either Hawaii as one of the fifty states or he just simply would rather paint Obama as a foreigner. I think the latter is in fact what Cotant is attempting to do here, despite the facts. Obama attended at least some schooling in Hawaii, graduating from the Punahou School in Honolulu. And little is taught about this country at Harvard? You've got to be kidding me. So why do all of my classmates with degrees in History seek graduate degrees from Harvard? Because we seek to learn from the greatest scholars on the history of Canada?

Prior to today I never would have considered the former mayor of Chubbuck to be among the fringe conservatives that we've heard about so frequently in the past weeks. "Birthers" and other members of the fringe American right are guys like von Brunn, the man who killed a guard at the Holocaust Museum, not mayors in small town America. Right? It's no wonder the chaotic world is so disconcerting. Here's a man who was recognized by the United States Senate, specifically Senator Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), for crying out loud. And he's still writing about how the President of the United States of America may not be an American citizen.

This is precisely why I can't take the chaos...

No comments :