As Alan Grayson said (Email message, 8/22/10): “As far as the Republican Party is concerned, they wouldn’t mind if Timothy McVeigh wins the Republican primary [in his Florida Congressional district] on Tuesday. (And by the way, if McVeigh ran, he would win.) The National Republican Party doesn’t care who wins on Tuesday. They just want to get rid of me. Whoever wins the Republican primary, you can be sure that he fits the racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, hateful, fearful mold that is the National Republican Party of 2010. And that mold gets moldier every day.”
Do you think that Mr. Grayson went too far with the Timothy McVeigh comment? In a speech last month, talking to the faithful, Sean Hannity referred to them as “Timothy McVeigh wannabees” — to great applause.
The “Mosque Controversy” is hardly about “The Mosque.” First of all, as well-known to anyone who has stopped to examine what it really is, the Muslim center is not one. It is in fact a multi-purpose community center open to all, of all religions, which happens to have a Muslim prayer room in it. No minarets, no muezzins calling the faithful to prayer, just, as an observer in The New Yorker said, a sort of Young Mens Muslim Association center, sort of modeled on the Young Men’s Hebrew Association center at 92nd St. and Lexington Ave., New York, NY, known in the City as “The Y.” In fact, staff members of “The Y” consulted with the founders of the Muslim center on their plans. Second of all, it is hardly on “hallowed ground,” unless one wants to consider the ground that six sex shops/bars in the same neighborhood pretty close to “ground zero” and a bunch of other run-down and vacant properties, as “hallowed.”
So folks, if it ain’t about the Mosque that is not a Mosque, what is it about? It is about the GOP’s Bush-Presidency-long quest to find the ideal ethnic enemy for pedaling, promoting, and developing what Congressman Grayson describes above. In fact major segments of the GOP have been promoting Islamophobia ever since 9/11, even though Bush himself tried fairly hard to quiet them down on that one. (After all, among the Bush family’s closest, very long-time, buddies is the Saudi Royal Family, and they still have tons of the black stuff.)
Charlie Krauthammer has been screaming it from the roof-tops ever since the day after the awful day. Gingrich took up the cause not too long after that. There was that US general who clearly saw that the US is in some sort of holy war against Islam, and of course Ann Coulter chimed in on that one some time ago.
Just the other day, when Ken Mehlman, former RNC chair “came out” (funny, I thought that his homosexuality had been common knowledge for some years now), he said that he is still with the GOP because it is focused on the US’s real enemy: the Muslim World. One Debra Burlingame’s brother was the pilot of the plane that crashed into the Pentagon (you know, the hollow aluminum tube that made a perfectly symmetrical 16 foot diameter hole in an inner wall of the Pentagon and left no wreckage). She’s a leader in the fight to stop the construction of the mosque, in an organization she co-founded with guess who, Liz Cheney and Bill Kristol. And the list of top GOP-operatives behind this goes and on. And now political candidates, like Rick foot-in-the-mouth Lazio, GOP candidate for Governor in New York, all around the country are jumping on the bandwagon.
What’s going on here? Well, the GOP may well have found their perfect racist foil. They are of course fundamentally racist in the traditional anti-black sense, ever since Nixon created the “Southern Strategy” that was cemented in place by Reagan. But you can only get just so far with that one because although you can use pictures and other symbols, what William Rivers Pitt called the “dog-whistle” technique, for the most part in most parts of the country and in most settings you can only talk around the subject, viz. what happened to Laura Schlesinger (who was probably on her way out for one reason or another anyway) when she was honest about her racism. And there is significant African American political power all across the country.
The anti-Latino thing has its limits too. The GOP still wants to try to hold onto some of the Latino vote, especially in Florida and Texas, and there are right-wing Latinos, in those two states and others. And there is significant Latino political power all across the country. Plus, big GOP donors are making millions, if not billions, exploiting undocumented workers and using their presence to hold down wages generally, as well as continue their 60 year-long, very successful, battle to kill trade unionism in the United States.
And so along come the US Muslims. How convenient. It happens that every open and covert war that the US is currently undertaking is against a Muslim nation or a significant power-structure within Muslim nations (e.g., the Taliban). It happens that the pawns in the 9/11 tragedy were Muslim (although as for the ultimate masters, most likely not. But that’s another story.) It happens that Krauthammer and Gingrich and many right-wing Jewish supporters of the Israeli government, and Kristol have been trying to gin up Islamophobia, without too much success to date. And here comes the “Mosque” (which isn’t a mosque). The perfect symbol (even though as a symbol it’s a Big Lie. It will even have its own 9/11 memorial right inside the door.)
Watch out America. The Muslims, unlike the Latinos and the African Americans have little or no political power. The Muslims are, well, Muslim. They are “different.” They are not Christians or Jews or what is actually the second largest non-religious identity group, the atheists/agnostics/humanists/secularists. They have a different “holy book” (to be burned in bunches by some right-wing “church” in Florida — those early Nazi book-burnings, anyone?) They are for the most part easy to recognize by their physiognomy. And thus they are they a great target for the Party “That Must Distract From the Real Issues and Its Responsibility for the Mess the Country is In if They Want to Win.”
In Weimar Germany it was of course the Jews who were the target of the Right. Political anti-Semitism had a history of modest length, having been invented by an Austrian in the 1880s. But the lies came thick and fast and they did much to propel the Nazis to power. At first, no one contemplated the ultimate outcome (well, maybe a few of the Nazis did). But there was a natural progression from the street violence to the Nuremberg Laws to the economic oppression to the stripping of citizenship and then on to the Final Solution. Yes indeed, the Jews were very convenient targets and certainly “no one (well, maybe a few of the Nazis did) contemplated” the Final Solution (which, after all, was not formalized until, under Hitler’s’ direct order, the Wannsee Conference was held on January 20, 1942 to set up the administrative structure for it).
What is happening now with the mobilization of hate by the GOP and its wholly-owned subsidiary, the “Tea Parties,” is very dangerous. A whole ethnic group, one that is for the most part fairly easy to visually identify, is being targeted as the “enemy.” It is being set up to represent in this country the “Islamic Enemy” around the world (even though the largest Muslim country, Pakistan is, on paper at least, an ally, as are other major Muslim countries like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Indonesia). The Holy War is now being wholly mobilized. If the GOP gains executive branch power, with a compliant Congress (Republican or Democrat) one must wonder when the round-ups would begin. After all, the US is at war, is it not? And in the living memory of many of us, such round-ups did take place of Japanese-American citizens living on the West Coast at the outbreak of the Second War.
Alarmist? Yes, I am. I am sounding the alarm. These people, the haters, the religious-oppressors, the open racists and homophobes, can muster only about 30% of the vote. But in a usual-turnout US election (around 50%) if they get all of theirs to turn out, guess what? They win. It’s Jonathan Westminster’s “The 15% Solution” serialized every four weeks on these pages. Hopefully, it will all fizzle out as people begin to come to their senses. But don’t count on it. The GOP and their Propaganda Channel are pushing this one for all they think it’s worth to them.
These are the words that have been attributed to the German Pastor Martin Niemoller (a pro-Nazi for quite some time), after World War II:
They came first for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for me and by that time no one was left to speak up.
Our nation should mark them well.
Steven Jonas, MD, MPH is a Professor of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University (NY) and author/co-author/editor of 30 books. In addition to being a Columnist for BuzzFlash, Dr. Jonas is also a Contributing Author for TPJmagazine; a Featured Writer for Dandelion Salad; a Senior Columnist for The Greanville POST; a Contributor to TheHarderStuff newsletter; a Contributor to The Planetary Movement; and a Contributing Columnist for the Project for the Old American Century, POAC.