It is natural for human beings to have idealized perceptions of a country based on history and anecdotal evidence. Depending on which part of the world a person lives, they may think of America as an imperialistic bully, or the land of opportunity where anything is possible and the people are warm and inviting. There are many Americans who are compassionate to their fellow citizens and harbor a great desire to see every person prosper in the spirit of equality to make this nation a source of pride at home and abroad. It is tragic, but there is a growing segment of society that are displaying behavior and attitudes that portend a nation of hateful people who rejoice in other’s misery and relish the thought of causing pain and suffering because of bigotry, greed and intolerance. Although those attitudes are not universal, they are giving the appearance that America is rife with mean-spirited and selfish people and it begs the question; is this the America people really want?
Many pundits have proffered the notion that the next election will decide if America is a country ruled by religious fanatics and corporatists, or a free democratic society where every citizen’s well-being is considered important and valuable. The past two Republican presidential debates have given a glimpse of the type of country America will become under Republican control and it does not look promising from a humanitarian point of view.
By now, most people have watched in horror and disgust as audience members cheered at Rick Perry’s prideful boast that he presided over 234 executions, and they heard audience members shout “let him die” when a hypothetical question regarding an uninsured man who will die without medical attention. To be fair, it is unknown how many in the audience really thought letting an uninsured American die was something to be proud of, but there were no obvious objections from audience members. It is revealing though, that the Republican candidates on the stage did nothing to dissuade the audience or reprimand them for their inhumane outbursts. In fact, Rick Perry appeared emboldened by the adulation for executing so many prisoners and it did not take an empath to see he was truly proud of his accomplishments and pleased the audience approved his execution record. If any of the debate’s participants were sickened by the audience reaction, it was not evident, and their silence speaks volumes as to their debased view of human life.
In Thursday’s presidential debate, audience members booed a gay soldier serving in Iraq when he asked a legitimate question about DADT. One can only hope the patriotic American who is risking his life in service of his country did not hear the audience booing, and it is heart-rending to know that he most certainly did hear the hateful display of bigotry. It was hurtful to witness for decent observers but what was more disturbing was that none of the candidates intervened in the soldier’s behalf by rebuking the audience. Where was the patriotism and support of the troops that Republicans claim is unique to conservatives? Where was any semblance of decency a presidential candidate should display regardless their personal views on gays serving in the military? Apparently, the candidates are just sad representations of a segment of the population whose religious-inspired hate and bigotry trump patriotism and gratitude to our troops regardless their sexual preference.
The hate being displayed in this country toward opposing viewpoints, non-traditional lifestyles, and economic station are not unique to a couple of GOP presidential candidates and their mean-spirited audiences. During the healthcare reform debates, all across the country pundits and protestors alike decried adequate healthcare for all Americans and revealed their contempt for the poor when they repeated the meme that healthcare was not a right, but a privilege reserved for the wealthy who can afford high-priced insurance coverage. Republicans in Congress have the same attitude and are still pushing a Medicare privatization scam sponsored by the Heritage Foundation. Paul Ryan, the representative who proposed the Heritage plan, showed his contempt for his constituents during a town hall meeting when he allowed a 71-year-old man to be handcuffed after the senior objected to Ryan’s statement that Medicare and Social Security was an entitlement when he had paid into them his entire working life. As the man was taken to the ground, handcuffed, and arrested, Ryan cracked a joke about the man’s blood-pressure medicine.
There is a growing level of inhumanity, callous disregard for life, and contempt being displayed from the far-right that is gaining momentum as Republican politicians show disregard for all but the extremely wealthy. Many blame the tea party, but it is on display in mainstream Republican circles as Congressional Republicans continue slashing programs for the poor, children, and seniors so they can reward their wealthy donors. It is alarming that in the richest country in the world, millions of Americans living in poverty are facing scorn and ridicule from Republicans and their supporters as if they are just trash. There are compassionate Americans, but their voices are curiously silent and it does not bode well for this country. Where is the Christian spirit and love for fellow man that Jesus taught, and where are the religious leaders who hold sway over millions of Christians who profess to be followers of Christ?
There is some good news. At Liberty University, the Christian college founded by evangelist Jerry Falwell, students unanimously said it was unchristian to let an uninsured man die. Of course, those same students would probably blindly vote for a callous Republican candidate, but at least they spoke out against the inhumanity of letting anyone die because they lacked health insurance. There must be more than a few students who are repulsed at the thought of slow death for the lack of insurance. There has to be.
If America is turning into a country full of hateful Republican sycophants who applaud executions as if they are in 17th Century England cheering a beheading, then it will not be long until public stonings and lynchings are the norm. The hateful bigots who booed the gay soldier will always express hate because their religious views prevent them from showing gratitude and compassion for a soldier risking his life for his country. They are a lost cause and will never change, but those Republican presidential hopefuls could have put a stop to it but they did not; they could not because that audience is an extension of the contemptible Republicans who hate women as much as gays.
America is in the throes of social change and instead of progressing to a place of acceptance, equality, and a sense of “we’re all in this together,” the country is lurching toward a theocratic plutocracy where the wealthy and religious fundamentalists celebrate death of the poor, seniors, and middle-class and celebrate intolerance and greed. America is changing for the worse and it is time for decent, compassionate Americans to stand up and speak out against hate and greed, because their silence is being misconstrued as quiet acquiescence and it is empowering the vile Republicans and their hateful supporters. It is time to decide just what kind of America the people are willing to settle for; a compassionate nation that cares for all its citizens, or a Taliban-like country courtesy of Republicans and their neo-conservative sycophants.