Friday, October 10, 2008

dark days of aught-eight

We're in a curious place in the race for the White House these days. Less than a month to go, and things are getting decidedly nasty. The Swift-boat style attacks on Barack Obama are in full swing. We knew the Republicans would bring it, but it's pretty disturbing how bad it's become.

Last night I heard political commentator David Gurgen describe what he saw at a recent rally: people actually calling for the murder of Barack Obama. Videos taken at GOP events have shown people in such furor that I can't help but think back to the film Mississippi Burning, which portrayed the racial hatred that permeated the Deep South in the 1960s. And McCain and Palin are doing nothing to stop it. In fact, they seem to be spurring on the spewing of hatred (and the dissemination of outright lies); Palin in particular has all but called Obama a terrorist! McCain may not have gone that far, but if his supporters want to think that way, he seems to be just fine with it.

So how did we get here? A friend of mine recently posted on his blog the idea that the Democrats are drawing on hope in this election, while the Republicans are drawing on fear. It's not the first time I've heard that equation, but especially with what we're seeing with the current financial crisis, the GOP certainly seems to be ratcheting the fear factor up a notch...and adding a certain amount of unfounded hatred to the mix.

The tax issue is just the tip of the iceberg. McCain and company harp so hard on the "Obama wants to raise your taxes" line, despite the fact that to his face, on two national debates, and on countless commercials, Obama has made it clear that almost everyone in the U.S. will pay FEWER taxes under him than under McCain. More disturbing are the rumors that Obama is a terrorist because of his middle name (Hussein) and/or because of his connection with a man with questionable ethics (Ayers). I mean, the hypocrisy of that, especially with Palin—who was recently found guilty of abusing her power as governor—is astounding.

But more intriguingly, I just wonder where all of this hate is getting the McCain camp. I can't help but think that some people in the Republican Party must be turned off by this level of fear-mongering. John McCain has, until this election, seemed like a sensible guy that Republicans, as well as some independents and even Democrats, could like. What is it saying about his leadership style if he and his people have to resort to the lowest of the low blows to get a win?

It's also just depressing, though, to know that this culture of fear, which has been promoted by Republicans for some time now, is propelled by a continually spiraling education system. It's no wonder that our schools are failing, that our country's collective math skills are going down the drain, and that many people consider the "intelligent elite" the scum of the earth when the Republican agenda has been to keep money out of public schools and to turn both teachers and students into zombies who can do nothing else but study for standardized tests.

I don't happen to agree that all's fair in politics. Regardless of what happens a few weeks from now, I think we're heading down a dangerous road. I only hope that we can reverse course before it's too late.

Update: Looks like I'm not alone in feeling this way; this spot-on op-ed appeared the day after my post.

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