“Human beings are perhaps never more frightening than when they are convinced beyond doubt that they are right.” –Laurens Van der Post
“The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.” –John Kenneth Galbraith
“Be wary of anyone who claims to know the “will of god”. If they actually believe it, be terrified.” –LLF
Crooks and Liars
Monday October 14, 2013 06:00 pm
By Our Readiness To Call Evil Good, 50 Years Later
This past weekend, religious right conservatives and 2016 hopefuls gathered for the Values Voters Summit, hosted by Heritage Action, the Family Research Council and Liberty Counsel, among others. After opening with a pious prayer that their God might hear their pleas and speak through them mightily, their featured speakers took the stage, one by one, and delivered hate. Hate for Muslims, hate for RINOs (Republicans in name only), hate for our President, hate for gays, and most especially, hate for ideas. Particularly ideas like giving everyone access to health care.
Just like that, it’s 1963 all over again. From truckers to veterans groups hijacked by renegade conservatives, the rest of the weekend was an exercise in time travel all the way back 50 years.
History is doomed to repeat itself
In November 1963, Dean Francis Sayre alluded to Isaiah 5:20 (Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.) in a speech given at JFK’s funeral.
By our silence, by our inaction, by our willingness that heavy burdens be borne by one man alone; by our readiness to allow evil to be called good and good evil; by our continued toleration of ancient injustices…we have all had a part in [the assassination].
In 1963, hate was on the march. Anger on the left was rising in the form of the civil rights movement. Anger on the right was rising because of the civil rights movement, spiked with a deep paranoid fear of all things and people who might be communists, blended with a dose of the usual right-wing petulance about a President who was a Democrat and also had the nerve to be Catholic.
Provocative literature was brewed by groups like the John Birch Society and posted in public venues to foment anger, fear and resentment.
There were rallies. Big rallies, lots of rallies. Rallies with seething middle class fine upstanding white folks who would pay or donate what little they had to be told the black people — or the Mexicans or the farm workers or the people who didn’t look like them but mostly it was the black people — would take what little they had and turn the entire country on its head.
They seized hidden fears and anxieties of hard-working people with siege sensibilities, and fed their suspicions until those good people were twisted into tense cores of molten fire. Whether it was fear of coloreds or fear of commies didn’t matter. It was fear, a buzzing low-level anxiety that could be whipped into a full-throated mob attack with a few speeches and like-minded neighbors. They saw people who didn’t look like them — who were at one time considered 3/5ths of one of them but were now going to be accorded equal status — those colored folks, and they knew their piece of the American Dream would evaporate in the presence of such men. Or worse, folks who wanted to take their country away would come from far away and invade. Maybe they already had. Maybe they had lost their country already because of that Catholic liberal in the White House.
Commies or coloreds, take your pick. Fear grew and it grew and it grew until it sparked hot into righteous indignant anger and carried common sense away like a helium-filled balloon with no counterweight. How dare they! How dare he? Such were the stirrings of 1963.
Still, in 1963 a few sensible people spoke of sensible things, raising their voices above the din and the noise using their influence to call evil things evil. In our time, it doesn’t seem that anyone will do the same.
In 1963, Republican Senator Kuchel stood up, pointed to the John Birch Society’s groundless accusations and stirrings-up and said this:
“…the curious fact is that the fright peddlers, from the simple simpletons to the wretched racists, all claim to be conservatives.”
Kuchel spoke out more than once. He refused to endorse Ronald Reagan because Reagan would not denounce the John Birch Society. He called for investigations into their activities, and was ultimately defeated in a primary for his third term by a more conservative Republican.
By today’s standards, Kuchel would be considered a liberal.
In 2013, what conservative will speak against outrageous charges such as these?
“This President is a true abomination…just vile. A small, small man.” ” I think Barack Obama is a threat to the integrity and future of the Republic. ” – Actor James Woods, October 10, 2013
“And you do not understand what is happening and what people are finding out and how they’re reacting when they learn about the mistreatment of uniformed military personnel killed in action and their families who are being denied benefits and proper respect, trips home, proper burials — all of this being denied purposely by the regime because of the shutdown when it need not happen at all and everybody out here knows it’s happening because of cheap childish immature partisan politics of the president of the United States and his party.” – Rush Limbaugh, October 9, 2013
“If this display by our most distinguished and honored American military heroes is any indication, given the state of affairs generally in this nation, which borders on total political, economic, moral and ethical collapse, is it inconceivable that one day the military in this country could rise up in support of not only the American people but themselves, and remove Obama and his radical Muslim, socialist comrades by whatever means prove necessary to preserve the republic?
This is not the scenario we would like to see, but like the Egyptians, when there is no other choice, anything is possible. Our Congress has shown no willingness to seriously confront Obama for his illegal and treasonous acts; the constitutional process of impeachment has never succeeded at removing a lawless and destructive president; and our judges have become the “yes-men and women” of the political establishment.” – Larry Klayman, Freedom’s Watch in WND, July 2013
“We see thuggery going on in the White House, we’re not going to take it, we’ve drawn a line in the sand…I want the Tea Party to know they made a profound difference and what they’re fighting for is to see if we’re actually going to be a constitutional republic or if we’re going to be totally devolved into a dictatorship under somebody like Barack Obama.” – Michele Bachmann, October 9, 2013
“[Obama] “doesn’t think like an American, he thinks like a guy in the Middle East, he thinks like a foreigner…”somebody should get the dictionary out for [the definition of] treason because I’m pretty sure there has to be several witnesses to someone aiding and abetting the enemy of the United States.”Glenn Beck – September 11, 2013
Because no single conservative has the moral courage to stand and say “this is wrong”, because political opportunism now trumps all measures of character, bitterness is growing. A bitterness that might once again beget violence.
This was 1963:
This is 2013:
In 1963, Koch-driven societies like the John Birch Society were repudiated by the mainstream press and Republicans. In 2010, the John Birch Society proudly sponsoredCPAC 2010. In 2013, they’ve linked arms with Americans For Prosperity to oppose UN Agenda 21.
In 1963, blacks were fighting for the right to vote without poll taxes, to be treated as equals with white people, to be granted their rightful place next to others without regard to skin color. In 2008, we elected a black person to the highest office in this land by a firm majority and with a mandate. In 2012, we re-elected him by a wide margin and in a near-total rejection of these extreme right wing totalitarians.
In 2013, conservatives use a willingly complicit and lazy press corps, the Internet, social media, the streets, and most recently the monuments they shut down> as a way to stoke fear, and yes, loathing in those most prone. They use his color as a weapon and ridicule his intellect, all the while using language intended to disguise their thoughts of him as “boy.”
In dark, dusty corners rage stirs, rises, and screams to be noticed. Who will calm it before it turns to fury? They are driving us toward an end where we’ll once again be forced to mourning, nodding at the wisdom of yet another admonition buried in yet another eulogy, one that reminds of the consequence of allowing evil to be called good.
We on the left can call it what it is, but without one honest voice from the right, it means nothing. Without one single person with influence calling it evil instead of proclaiming it good, they will continue, and they will all nod righteously as they bow their heads in prayer and earnestly call upon their god for vengeance to rain down on all their enemies.
If they succeed in destroying the global economy by breaching the debt ceiling, they will call it a good thing even as they denounce the President for causing it. And still, there is no one to actually call evil what it is.
Claire Conner, whose parents were co-founders of the Chicago JBS branch, reminds:
“It is time . . . way past time . . . for Americans to wake up. Your neighbor is not your enemy. The poor are not your enemy. Teachers, firefighters, police officers (at least most of them) are not your enemy. Government employees are not your enemy.
Our future is threatened by a politically active plutocracy that spends millions of dollars to take us down the rabbit hole of more tax cuts for the rich, lower tax rates for corporations and the magical imaginary trickle down economic model. Now those uber-‘rich plutocrats are keeping company with the uber-hate government libertarians.
It is time . . . way past time . . . for Americans to wake up.”
It is also time for someone to be the Bill Buckley of this generation. No more calling evil good. If no one has the courage to do it, we could once again find ourselves owning a part of tragedies to come.
[Note: This is an update and expansion of this essay I wrote in 2010. Sadly, things have escalated even more since then]