We all want a better America

Folks, it is getting a little scary out there. Several months into Barack Obama’s tenure as POTUS, some contingents of the Republican Party have gone completely hysterical. I support the whole Tea Party thing, as we are all entitled to protest peacefully. Still, the same people who are calling Democrats “socialists” are now gnashing teeth and wailing over paying taxes…seems a bit ironic to me. And the current tax policy still places the (by far) largest burden on the wealth (boo-hoo?). But I agree that some of the spending going on in Washington seems a bit wasteful, so protest it up, I suppose.Earlier tonight, I heard talk show host Michael Savage berate a black caller with racial insults-he asked the man if he was a “gang-banger” and accused him of having no formal education-because the man called the Tea-Baggers “idiots.” Since when is racism acceptable when trying to make a rhetorical point?

On the other hand, the Department of Homeland Security issued a report this week which, through unfortunate carelessness in its wording, accuses conservatives of being “extremists” and implies they may turn to domestic terrorism. I can’t help but feel I might become a bit hysterical if my government formally accused me of extremism for following one of the two major political parties. Then again, I’m also reminded of George W. Bush’s accusation that “you are either with us or against us in the war on terror.”

In light of these circumstances, I have decided that I need to issue an apology. Last week, I called conservative “xenophobes,” which, ironically, showed considerable xenophobia on my part. I know plenty of good-hearted and compassionate conservatives, and I apologize for stereo-typing. Anger caused me to make that mistake, and, thanks to the hysteria I’m witnessing on the news and hearing on the airwaves, I now see how dangerous mixing anger and political opinions can be.

I felt the hysteria in a tangible way. For attempting to support rights for illegal immigrant students in my column two weeks ago, I was the subject of an hour-long tirade on Phil Valentine’s radio show. I can’t say I lost much sleep, though I didn’t hear the broadcast, and Mr. Valentine has yet to respond to my request for a transcript. I presume he is too busy counting his money and figuring out new ways to piss people off. Judging from the accounts provided to me by friends, however, I am somewhat surprised no angry mobs have showed up at my doorstep with tar and feathers.

Phil Valentine and Michael Savage stir up hate to make money. Teachers, preachers, guidance counselors, librarians, yoga-instructors, and firemen, to name a few, help people. As a representative of one of those categories, I’ve tried, in my finer moments, to be of service. I’ve tried to encourage acceptance and challenge people to question adherence to dogma instead of maintaining a free-thinking attitude towards improving our society. I let my anger get the best of me from time to time, and I wish I’d worked harder at staying true to my peaceful intentions, but at least I know I tried.

That said, I want to issue a warning to all my (much appreciated ) readers: be wary when pundits or politicians begin to label oppositional groups “enemies.” Fear and hatred, both abstract constructs, are the real enemy. Conservatives, liberals, and illegal immigrants are only groups of people. “Love thy neighbor as you love thyself” and “give peace a chance, man” are two ways of saying the same thing. The message inherent to either adage transcends political bickering.

The hysterical reaction to Obama’s election from factions on the right, and the vindictive actions of the Department of Homeland Security now, bizarrely, on the left can only bring about turmoil, and, very likely, violence.

I’d like to request that we all stop a minute and remember that we all want a better America. Sure, we don’t all agree on how to get there, but that is no call to stop working peacefully, debating respectfully, and aiming for compromise.

See you next time…unless I’m tarred and feathered, which would make typing rather difficult, I fear.