Today is the anniversary of John F Kennedy’s death, which means that over this Thanksgiving week President Barack Obama will have outlived the man he is often compared to. But with shots just fired at the White House and rampant hate being aimed at him from the far right, it’s a milestone that is hardly comforting.
I’ve been holding my breath during each major event of Obama’s presidency. Watching his speeches with my stomach in a vague, deliberately ignored knot. This man, elected as the “first African American President”, has faced more vitriolic, disrespectful enmity than I could have imagined on that hopeful day he took office. Just days ago, his brilliant and graceful wife faced booing by NASCAR fans as she served as the Grand Marshall in order to support military families.
And no leader from the right speaks out to denounce such outrage.
This is one reason why Republicans are simply not morally fit for office, among their other failures (jobs, taxing the middle class, forcing our credit rating down and more). At least ten states allowed their legislature to attempt to disqualify President Obama from being on the 2012 ballot because they want to see his birth certificate in some newly paranoid way.
In light of such blatant racism, the silence from the seemingly misanthropic Republicans is deafening.
The moment we heard Joe Wilson yell, “You lie!” at the President, we should have made an undeniable request for an apology and censuring. The hatred aimed at this President is no different than that aimed at Kennedy, for racism is just another “ism” designed to serve the patriarchs in their attempt to divide the people, and as such, any “ism” will do.
These days, being a liberal or a Democrat is enough to be an “ism” — hated for being a “socialist”. Is there no sanity left?
Here is Walter Cronkite announcing the death of U.S. president John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963.
Frank Rich wrote a column this morning for the New York Times in which he beautifully articulated my worst fears regarding the ways Barack Obama’s presidency mirrors John F Kennedy’s, particularly in regard to the hate they both received.
What defines the Kennedy legacy today is less the fallen president’s short, often admirable life than the particular strain of virulent hatred that helped bring him down. After JFK was killed, that hate went into only temporary hiding. It has been a growth industry ever since and has been flourishing in the Obama years. There are plenty of comparisons to be made between the two men, but the most telling is the vitriol that engulfed both their presidencies…..
America the Great; we have been shamed by the actions of a minority. The violence and vitriol inherent in our politics and indeed, goaded on by our political leaders (Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, and other Dominionists are particularly egregious when it comes to inciting the ugliest of human nature but Rush Limbaugh and his Fox “friends” are the megaphone for such disgrace) is morally untenable.
While we are outraged, the question needs to be asked today of all days. Have we done enough, have we spoken out enough, have we demanded a stop to the ugliness?
Gabby Giffords and the victims of the Arizona massacre should serve as the reminder of what’s at stake, as should JFK. This country can’t afford another attempted assassination let alone a successful one. And just because this sort of ugliness has become the norm doesn’t mean it’s acceptable. Are we outraged enough?
Are we a moral nation? Do we have what it takes to overcome the violent strains of our society and shame them into submission, or are we the overly tolerant parent, too tired and too worn down to object, biding our time until our failures become someone else’s problem.
It appears we are the latter, aided and abetted by a manipulated media and a war-weary, economically troubled populace. For almost three years now, I’ve swallowed down my fear for this president and his family, as I know have many of you. I’ve prayed for the Secret Service to be good at their jobs and stay safe themselves, and I’m not a praying person. Most painful for me have been the times when the left joined in with the right, unknowingly (I hope) buying into the “ism” directed at this president, under the guise of holding him accountable.
But of course, hatred is not holding someone accountable. Hatred is personal. Hatred invites the devil in, and the devil in this case was just waiting for an invitation.
There is quite simply no excuse for the destructive, sulfurous animosity and disdain directed at this man and his family that we have tolerated and allowed as a nation. I felt ashamed of this country when George W Bush announced he would not be working with the UN and would invade a sovereign nation, and now, again, I feel the same sense of being responsible for something so malevolent and forever-changing that I can’t even comprehend it fully. During the first few years of the invasion, I felt as if my tax dollars being spent on the war (little did I know that the war had been left off of the budget) meant I was culpable. And so, too, now, I feel culpable for the actions of the minority.
Because a country is a community, and in this community, the lunatics are being allowed to run the asylum. We are all responsible for their actions, for our tolerance permits it to grow and fester.
If anything should happen to this president, I fear our country would not recover. So, if we love this country, if we have a shred of patriotism left, we will not allow the ugly festering wound of hatred to continue unanswered. If the media continues to lack the courage and integrity to report the truth, to give words to the unspeakable horror hiding in plain sight, we must double down on our efforts.
Violent rhetoric, corrosive personal hatred of the man, and unabated rudeness all give permission and invite the unstable to heinous acts. As Gabby Gifford’s husband said so well, Sarah Palin may not have been responsible for the Arizona massacre, but she was irresponsible. She was also, as are too many on the right, petulant and petty in response to the national outcry of “Enough!” Post Arizona shootings, the right chose to focus on false equivalencies and “shared blame”, all the while careful to never take responsibility for their own part in the ugly rhetoric — as children, not adults, would do. When the Republican Party became more interested in not being blamed for atrocities than they were in remedying them, they lost all claim to a moral high ground.
We can’t afford to base our level of acceptable morality on the juvenile responses to our demands for civility. We must each search our own hearts and minds for what we know to be the truth, what we as citizens of this great country want her to stand for, and we must demand that our leaders rise up to those demands, rather than feed from the bottomless pit of the lowest common denominator. For true leaders are not found in the trough, sucking up to the dredges of society as their foot soldiers, but rather inspiring us to be our individual and collective best, recognizing that while we may not agree with the policies, we need not hate the person.
On this solemn anniversary, we must not forget that it can happen again and it will happen again unless we all take a stand together. The nation must face the moral depravity of the Republican Party and reject it without further consideration, for our leaders cannot be a force of hostility toward other Americans nor deliberately widen the chasm of our nation for cynical political purposes. The Republican Party has been catering to division and bigotry as a get out the vote tactic for so long, they never noticed when they willingly gave up the mantle of the party of personal responsibility and morality.
But we did notice, and we must say no more for the good of our country, as a whole. Let the anniversary of JFK’s assassination serve as a reminder of where institutionalized hatred can lead.