WHAT HAPPENED TO HONEST OPINIONS?
I watched the above video of a recent teabagger protest thinking some wingnuts might give me a hearty chuckle.
But midway through the video, I remembered that a majority of Americans now disapprove of President Obama's performance. Which is to say, these teabaggers are making a difference.
By the end of the video, I was so frightened by it that it made torture porn movies look like My Little Pony.
What scares me, however, is not the anti-Obama sentiment, but the nature of the actual words expressed.
I know that there will always be fierce opposition to any American president, regardless of his or her ideology. Dissent is an American tradition. Undoubtedly, the anti-Bush rallies were an even larger assembly of angry people with the same passion as the people interviewed above.
But what shocks me about these oft-repeated wingnut talking points is how much they depend on lies.
In expressing their views, these teabaggers rely on "facts" with no credible support. Obama is not an American citizen. Obama is a Communist. Obama is the first president to have "czars." Obama wants to kill my grandma. Obama is Muslim. Obama is raising my taxes (said a person who is probably not making more than $250,000). Obama is taking my doctor away.
In contrast, most anti-Bush protesters never needed to lie. They either chanted pure opinions (e.g., "The war on Iraq is wrong," "Bush is the worst president in US history," etc.) or expressed beliefs stemming from undisputed facts (e.g., "No Tax Dollars to Halliburton", "How can the White House defend torture?," etc.).
Granted, there were many leftists who passionately believed unproven assertions. For example, thousands (including me) believed that the White House was raising the terror alert levels during the 2004 presidential campaign just to skew support towards President Bush. Sure enough, it turned out to be true. But even if it wasn't true, most Bush critics could articulate their opposition to President Bush's policies without lying (or repeating lies that they believed to be true).
Consider the "You Lie" controversy. Personally, I am not outraged with Rep. Joe Wilson for merely interrupting Pres. Obama's speech and violating so-called rules of etiquette. If he blurted out "Shame!" during one of Pres. Bush's speeches defending the Iraqi invasion, I would have praised him. Instead, what outrages me about Rep. Wilson's statement is that it's a patently false assertion. He's not expressing an opinion. He's stating that Obama's proposed bill would apply to illegal immigrants, when it clearly does not.
Also, the imbalance in what constitutes acceptable dissent blows my mind. Among other things, I don't remember any anti-Bush protester holding up a sign like, "Unarmed, this time," which one teabagger is carrying in the above video. Moreover, any anti-Bush supporter who showed up to a Bush rally in 2002 with a gun would have been immediately arrested.
Another reason I am especially flabbergasted by the right-wing talking points is because I have no difficulty articulating legitimate ideological grounds for a conservative to criticize the Obama White House. Opposed to a strong, active federal government? Obama is probably not your man. Do you think stem cell research constitutes murder? Obama is not your man. Should insurance companies suffer financially by being forced to insure people with preexisting conditions? If not, Obama is definitely not your man.
Although I completely disagree with the fundamentalist in the video who compared abortion to a holocaust, I respect that it is an opinion not dependent upon lies. He believes that the termination of any fetus is murder. Fair enough. He doesn't need to believe or spread lies -- e.g., Obama is forcing women to get abortions -- to articulate his opposition.
Similarly, today, I respect any person who says, "I oppose Obama's health care reform because I do not believe that wealthy taxpayers should have to pay for poor people's hospital bills."
I don't share that view. I find it greedy and selfish.
But at least it's an honest opinion.
Do these Glenn Beck supporters see any irony in their criticism of Obama as a leader who has used his charisma to create a blind allegiance among supporters?
On a related note, I feel compelled to make two points about the recent surge in Hitler comparisons.
First, I think it is inappropriate to seriously compare someone to Adolf Hitler unless he is responsible for the genocide of hundreds of thousands of people.
(I would make an exception, however, for people who have Hitler mustaches.)
I acknowledge that I am a hypocrite in saying this. I have referred to at least one stringent meter maid or iron-fisted supervisor as a Nazi, which, at the very least, is insensitive to Holocaust survivors.
Thus, I cringe when I see Obama compared to Hitler. Today, I would also cringe if someone compared George W. Bush to Hitler.
But having said that, I feel compelled to make this second point: Obama-Hitler comparisons seem far more indefensible than Bush-Hitler comparisons.
Bush was compared to Hitler when he had unilaterally invaded, in the face of global opposition, the sovereign nation of Iraq and killed at least 100,000 -- and, by some estimates, a million -- civilians. Granted, that death toll doesn't rival the millions who died in the Holocaust. And unlike Hitler, Bush did not systemically calculate to decimate a whole race of people. But I can appreciate the point that 100,000 dead innocent civilians puts Bush on a very short list of people responsible for equally grave numbers.
Obama, on the other hand, is being compared to Hitler for trying to ensure that every American has health care.
Do the protesters drawing Hitler mustaches on Barack Obama's face (fun fact: Obama is not an Aryan) really believe the comparison is valid?
(Credit: Thanks to J. Song for the video)